My sister sent an email late one night that said she wished to get together with the family to talk about Dad, because she misses him. We rapid fired some thoughts about him until we were both in tears.
I wrote that maybe we needed to recall some cheerful or funny Dad quotes so we could sleep. "Hey, how 'bout a cup of tea?" I wrote.
Or "How about a hop in the backside?" she replied. (A legitimate question, no?)
It has been three months since Dad left, and many things trigger a thought about him, like yesterday when I picked up two remote controls that were lying around and looked at the vast array of buttons and arrows and thought: This is nuts.
Dad never thought so.
In his mid- to late eighties, he'd purchased a large, flat screen television and learned its many features, plus the functions of the remote controls. I was impressed, not just because of the speed in which he navigated the remote, but because he never feared something new, but remained curious and interested in technology and invention.
He may have called television "the freakin' idiot box" when we were kids (what, did he think we were going to volunteer to read text books?) and maybe TV was not his main entertainment, but he knew the remote.
One favorite visual of Dad is when he was seated on the floor with my sons, asking how to play their video game, everybody smiling. I think his engagement is what kept his mind sharp, and perhaps helped him combat worry and depression (a mild side affect of having nine kids.) He looked for new angles, something to read, learn, or try and kept a novel and crossroad puzzle down the side of his recliner. Since he was not a good sleeper, those things came in handy.
Dad did not have the advantage of watching somebody set this example for him that I know of. He said that the children in his house were to be seen and not heard, so any time he got too close to the adults, he was told to scram. Yet when he was still in his baseball playing years in Coney Island, his mother needed him to oversee his younger brothers and sisters, because Grandpa was not around much.
Dad also expressed a great love of cooking, and after Mom died, he often telephoned me as I arrived to my desk.
"Hey, I came across an interesting recipe. You going to be around tonight?"
The franks and beans casserole would never make the top ten weight watcher recipes, but it was the most awesome comfort food perhaps I'd ever eaten. In fact, my childhood (and adulthood) friend, Susan-the-food-critic, loved it, too. (In Heaven, nothing is going to be fattening.)
So to honor Dad and and an exercise in brain cell stimulation, I have created a brief crossword puzzle and a bonus: a franks and beanscasserole recipe! Of course the puzzle should be printed and kept beside your easy chair.
Here is a better than close enough rendition to:
Frank & Beans Casserole
- 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 3 packages of fat, ballpark-style, all-beef hot dogs, sliced on a slight angle (you can also use turkey or tofu dogs, whatever dog you like) I am a Hebrew National gal. (hey, at least they used to claim to answer to a higher authority, right?) -- Margaret
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups (a 15-ounce can) tomato sauce
- 4 16-ounce cans or 1 family-size can baked beans
- 2 8 1/2-ounce boxes corn muffin mix, such as Jiffy brand
- 2 eggs
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon (about a palmful) chili powder
- 1/4 cup chopped or snipped chives
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Yields: 6-8 servings
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a large, oven-safe, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add EVOO.
Add the sliced hot dogs to the pan and brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add the chopped onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes.
Combine molasses, Worcestershire and tomato sauce in a small bowl and add to the skillet. Add the baked beans and bring up to a simmer.
While the hot dog mixture is coming up to a simmer, mix the two packages of muffin mix together with eggs, melted butter, milk, chili powder, chives and the cheese. Pour the mix over the top of the hot dog mixture in the skillet. Place skillet in the oven and bake until cornbread is light golden in color, 12-15 minutes.