It’s been rough, since my Daddy died on March 14, 2017. Not quite four months have passed, but my brother and I have done what we were charged to do, as Co-Trustees of his estate. Soon it will all wrap up.
There are a lot of good things happening in my life, and I will post them here, but I felt since I hadn’t actually dealt with my father’s death here, that I’d better do so.
Chet Cunningham, June 2011. 325+ novels out and counting. He’s as real as it gets.
Boy do I miss him.
I do not think it is his time. But he hurts, and seeing your parent in pain is just as impossibly frustrating and heart-wrenching as seeing your child in pain.
I am here, bearing witness. Talking when he wants to talk, watching over him as he sleeps. Soon I will head for home…but for now, I am here.
Sharing space with him. Guarding his sleep. Watching as his hands work, searching for something that he doesn’t find before coming to a rest.
My heart aches even as I am profoundly grateful for being able to be here with him for the past three days.
Precious Time – photo by Christine Ashworth, image arrangement by Mary Bogue
I’m fully planning on him being around for at least another decade. I just need him to get with that program, too.
My parents bought a cabin in the Laguna Mountains in the winter of 1965-66. It’s in the Cleveland National Forest, and you buy the cabin – but lease the land from the government. They are considered summer homes, and won’t allow you to buy with the intent to live year-round. They won’t even let you buy one if you don’t own another home.
Yesterday, July 30 2016, my father, my oldest brother, and I took the pilgrimage back to the place we were all happiest.
The windows are new. The roof is, too. The paint job looks fresh, and they put skytubes into the kitchen to open it up, as well as the sliding glass door on the right which is new. The place looks well-loved and taken care of.
The cement slab, though, was poured by my father and my brothers. You can still see our names in it.
My mom’s writing.
I won’t lie…this was an emotional day. Before we saw the cabin, we went to Major’s Diner, in Pine Valley, for lunch…the best burger I’ve had in a very long time.
I remember sitting at that counter, 45+ years ago,and feeling like a “big girl” because the counter was the perfect height for littler kids.
And Dad…well, he had a quarter of his waffle. I won’t say he’s getting too thin, but…note the cardboard between the back of his watch and his wrist. (He’s an innovator.)
So, we got to the cabin. I have more photos on my big camera, but these were all taken with my phone and are more readily accessible, so.
My brother Greg parked the car, and I was itching to get outside. Dad wanted to, as well, so we helped him out. Walked up a short hill to within the steps to the slab (top photo). He was dizzy, out of breath, and couldn’t go further.
I left them there, Greg hanging onto Dad, because this hill right here was calling to me.
Up there, along the ridge line, in the summer of 1993, we scattered my brother Scott’s ashes. I was, oh…maybe six months pregnant at the time.
The next time I visited the cabin, it was in the late spring of 2007, when we scattered my mother’s ashes. At the time, I thought the next time I would be there would be to scatter my father’s ashes, but luckily that was not true.
I took many, many photos. I stuck my nose in the bark of the Jeffrey Pine trees and smelled the rich vanilla scent. I laughed at the woodpeckers and the blue jays even as I brushed my tears away. And when I hiked to the top of this hill, my feet sank into gopher tunnels that I had once been able to spot and avoid. Dirt got into my shoes. The air was muggy, and sweat rolled between my shoulder blades as I stocked up on photos and memories.
The outhouse had been taken down; there were only a few bricks left in the soil to mark where it once stood. The big oak tree that my dad had shimmied up (about 30 feet) in the summer of 1966 to tie a rope swing on was also gone; not even a stump remained. We used to swing high and try to push off the outhouse…never quite made it…
This side of the mountains, the trees were lush, and green. The rains had done good here. The oaks and pines both looked amazing. All the ground fifty feet surrounding the cabins had been cleared, as by law. The place looked beautiful.
Going back to the car, I saw Greg helping my dad inside. He laid the seat back and closed his eyes, and a part of me hurt for him…Dad had sawn logs, gone arrowhead hunting, taken us for hikes. He cleared land and created a volleyball court. He brought a litter of puppies up in one box, and a month later had to take them home in two boxes. He strode these lands in the prime of his life…everywhere I looked, I saw that young man who, when he wasn’t working with his hands, was writing novels.
Greg Cunningham and Chet Cunningham, July 30, 2016.
I had an incredible, safe, loving childhood filled with remarkable people and this oh, so amazing place in the mountains. I am blessed.
Sweet Holiday Treats
This time of year, I love making Candy Cane Popcorn. I found this recipe a couple of years ago and I could have sworn I put something up here about it, but I haven’t been able to find it, so…
If you google it, you’ll find a ton of recipes. But this is one that I like, with a few differences.
CANDY CANE POPCORN <– that’s from All Recipes. They have you keep the popcorn in a bowl after you’ve mixed the white chocolate and the peppermint in.
I like spreading it out on a cookie sheet…and I confess I add a little smattering of sea salt to it. Oh, and I cook it on the stove in oil…no air popper at my house, so there you go. And you know what? It’s still JUST as tasty.
Decadent Hot Chocolate
Another thing I love this time of year is Decadent Hot Chocolate. I HAVE written about that here before, but I truly believe it’s a concoction worth sharing. So here’s that other post.
I had the best hot chocolate ever in February 2005. Hubby and I were in Paris for our anniversary, and we stumbled on this patisserie on the Isle de St. Louis on a chilly morning.
The scent of chocolate permeated the air. We didn’t even think of resisting its call. So, as we sipped our chocolate (to DIE for), hubby prowled around and found the recipe, hand-written, on a card by some chocolates. So he copied it.
One memorable morning, when Paris was a distant memory, he made me this Decadent Hot Chocolate, and I was pleased to remember, yet again, what a lucky girl I was to have married him.
The recipe is below…but be careful. You can tie people to your side with this hot chocolate. On no account (if you’re single) should you give out the recipe…
1 cup high quality 60% cacao chocolate (I use Ghiradelli – but regular choc chips are fine) 4 cups milk, 3 Tlb powdered baking cocoa (Again, I use Ghirardelli), 3 Tlb white sugar, 1 cup heavy whipping cream.
Put chocolate in a pan, and add just enough milk from your 4 cups to float the chips a bit. Heat until chocolate is melted through, stirring the entire time. Once melted, add the rest of the milk a little at a time, keeping the heat on medium (don’t boil!). Then add the powdered cocoa, one Tlb at a time, whisking it in. Do the same with the white sugar. Once that is incorporated, slowly add the 1 cup heavy whipping cream, stirring the entire time. Continue to stir until the chocolate is hot again. Then drink and be glad you are human!
IF you wish, in the spirit of the movie Chocolat, you may add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper to spice things up.
Now you know!
When I realized what day it was, everything in me kind of jerked to a stop. Six years ago, I had surgery for an Acoustic Neuroma. 11 hours under anesthesia.
Two days after surgery.
You can read more about it in this post here. That’s the one year anniversary post.
Here’s the 3 Year Anniversary post.
To everyone who’s ever gone through something that had such a lasting effect on you, I understand.
Me? I am so very grateful to still be here. Sending love and hugs to you all.
Need a pick-me-up? Try Christmas Star, only .99! One reader called it “A sweet as hot chocolate, modern day fairy tale…”
Me at 50
I did the girl thing this morning, spritzing and moisturizing my face. As I did so, I remembered the dry and flaky skin on my mother’s face. Toward the end of her life, she was wheelchair bound by MS and didn’t get the skin regimen she used to give herself.
So, I remembered, and moisturized. And as I did, I looked at my face of 55, soon to be 56. I have bags under my eyes that have been there since birth; I have laugh lines around my eyes, also there since birth I believe, only now they show when I am not laughing. The rest of my face is smooth; maybe a forehead wrinkle or two, but nothing earth shattering. A bit of the jowl thing going, because of the weight gain, but still there’s nothing that breaks the illusion I hold that I am still in my forties, ha.
I wore makeup in my twenties; powder, eyeshadow, thick mascara. In my thirties and early forties, I went back and forth between full liquid foundation, powder and eye makeup, and just doing the eyes. When I turned fifty, it was as though I dropped the mask of makeup entirely, and was fine with it.
And to my surprise, no one cared.
March 2011, RT – 3 months after brain surgery, with Donna O’Brien – 51
I would like to figure out how to put makeup on this face; it’s not the same face as it was 30 years ago. If I treat it as theater makeup, I think it will be easier. That, after all, was the first makeup I’d learned to apply.
As I went about the rest of my early-morning, pre-breakfast, pre-work routine, the thoughts on aging and face/body image rumbled around my head. My body is definitely not the ballerina body I had; it has borne two children, run a marathon, and had two major surgeries plus a couple broken bones since then.
There is so much out there about women and body awareness/fat shaming/ageism. I find when I really think about it, that in this body of mine that is carrying probably 30 pounds more than I would like, I am more sexual and sensual, more loving, and happier than I have ever been, including back when I was 55 pounds lighter than I am now and dancing every day.
Almost as if with age (and the weight gain), my fear has lessened and my empathy has grown. My heart has grown, and I am more connected to people than I have ever been.
Over all, I have to say that this year of being 55 has been one of the best years of my life so far, in so many ways.
But maybe it’s time to wear mascara again.