It never ceases to amaze me how life will soften our hearts when we let it. The son of a dear friend of mine called to share that his mother had been taken to the hospital and had gone through two back surgeries, one day apart. This alone would be news worthy, but Marian is 89 years old.
I have known Marian for 30 years; we met when I was dating her son. When my relationship with her son ended, Marian and I maintained our friendship. Marian comes from ‘good basic farm stock’. She is a no-nonsense woman, with a fierce devotion to family, nature, the land and her friendships. Modernity is suspect for a woman, like Marian. For me, Marian has been a surrogate mother in the most tender sense of the word.
I remember each time I would leave her home after a visit. Marian would stand in her living room window and wave to me. I came to look for her in that window, her warmth passing the space between us, waving me home.
Marian takes a deep interest in those she loves. She wants to know what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. Through relationship failures and life-style changes, Marian was steadfast in her support for me. It is a quality of kindness difficult to repay, and deeply treasured.
Val and I visited Marian in the hospital two days ago and were surprised how well she looked. Her color was good, in spite of the feeding tube down her nose, and the inability to get out of bed. When I asked how she was doing, she responded, “I’m grateful for two things; I still have my eyes and my mind.”
People look vulnerable when they’re in the hospital. It speaks to our own vulnerability. I was reminded once again how each day is precious and unique. We are guaranteed this moment only, our future indeed unknowable. Dwelling on past transgressions or worrying about our future, is so often counter-productive. Our task is to cherish this moment, and use it wisely.
Marian will be transferred to a nursing-home to recover from her surgeries. We all want her to be her usual independent-self and recover fully. Yet we also acknowledge we are not in control of how each life unfolds. I do know I will show her as much love as I can, with repeated visits and well wishes. Although I’m sure she knows it already, I will be sure to tell her, “I love you.”
“Friendship is the bread of the heart.” –Mary Russel Mitford
For me one of the simplest gestures to show people how much I love them, is to cook for them. During the colder months, comfort food will show up repeatedly in our home. Here is one of our favorites:
- 1 3-4 lb. rotisserie chicken
- 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 5 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2-3 red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 12 frozen pearl onions, thawed
- 1 medium leek, white and light-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 3/4 cup button mushrooms, quartered
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. dried thyme
- Zest of one lemon
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 Tbsp. heavy cream
- One refrigerator pie-crust (or one homemade pie-crust)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the skin from the chicken, and remove all the chicken from the carcass. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.
- Melt 5 Tbsp. butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the red potatoes and pearl onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes, until the potatoes begin to turn golden. Add the leeks, carrots, and mushrooms, and cook 4-5 minutes more. Add the 5 Tbsp. of flour, and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Stir in chicken stock and milk, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly, 2-3 minutes. Add reserved chicken pieces, parsley, thyme, lemon zest. Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to large casserole dish.
- Make the egg-wash by mixing the egg yolk and cream in a small bowl. Place pie-crust on top of the casserole and tuck the extra dough around the edges. Cut slits on top to allow steam to escape. Brush with the egg wash, and place on a baking sheet. Bake 35-40 minutes, until crust in golden. Serve hot.