Friday, September 24, 2021

Coffee and Sympathy, the September 2021 Edition

I am close to starting a regular obituary column on my blog. 

A week ago today, I learned my (former) boss’ wife Cindy passed away.  I don’t know if she had a lingering illness, but her death sounded sudden.  She was only 58 years old.  Her husband Len was my IT manager from 2000 to 2015 and was a very private fellow, but I managed to meet Cindy a couple times at holiday gatherings.  She was attractive, pleasant, a nice person.

I can’t imagine how Len is feeling right now.  Their daughter Mollie is supposed to be married in October, making it seem more unfair.  Anyway, Cindy’s obituary is here.

Three days later (this past Monday) I received an email from my dear friend Suzie Zapko.  It said “Doug, I can’t reach you.  Please call me.”  I felt my chest tighten. 

Suzie & I have been very good friends for 30+ years, talk (almost) weekly on the phone and in all that time she has only emailed me twice.  (The first is from 12/31/99, this was the second one.)  

I called her and apologized for forgetting to let her know I got rid of my landline (home phone) after giving up cable tv a month ago.  Suzie said “Doug, David is dead.”   David was Suzie’s husband of 49 years, he was 69 years old.  A few weeks ago, a mass was detected in his bladder.  They learned it was malignant, and David wound up having his entire bladder removed, only to develop sepsis.  He died a little over a week ago.

Suzie said she didn’t have it in her to go thru with a funeral.  Neither of them were religious or had many friends, and aside from their daughter Kim they have no family.  His body went directly to the crematorium (a block up the street from my apartment) and she’d just been notified his ashes were ready. 

I wasn’t planning on sharing either of those deaths here, these are people I may have known for years, but only indirectly.  And then on Wednesday there was a fuss going on downstairs, with an ambulance parked in front of my apartment building.  Several people were downstairs watching, and I went down and asked a woman what was going on.  She said there’d been a death on the second floor, the paramedics were unable to get their stretcher on the elevator, and were assembling a makeshift carrier.

When I asked if she knew who died, she said a tall older man named Winston, who apparently had been dead several days.  His sister (who lives in England) had been unable to reach him and called the police here.  Did I know him?

I sure did, I even wrote a blog about him once here.  (He was British and always wore a silk scarf around his neck.)  And it just occurred to me that I hadn’t seen him downstairs for several weeks.  I’ll miss him, I hope his death was a quiet one.

I pray I don’t learn of anymore deaths anytime soon, but I know those wishes will fall on deaf ears.  The older I get, the more common a thing this becomes.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Bachelor Man Sunday dinner: It turns out 2018 was a very good year for pork chops

Do you have a hang-up about not wasting or tossing out food?  I do, and Saturday night when I was straightening out my freezer I came across a couple of pork chops wrapped in foil that was speckled with little holes (is there such a thing as freezer moths?) and written in a smear of blue, CHOPS 3/7/18.

Earlier I’d come across a bag of brussel sprouts that were shrunk to the look & size of black-eyed peas; I had no problem tossing those out, but meat?  I had to see if these were still edible!

Overnight Pork Chop Marinade

  • 1 TBL Soy Sauce
  • 1 TBL Worchester Sauce
  • 2 TBL Vegetable (Canola) Oil
  • 1 TSP Lemon Juice
  • 2 TBL Brown sugar
  • 2 TBL Ketchup

I figured as long as they need to defrost overnight in the refrigerator, why not let them thaw in a tasty marinade?  I peeled off that speckled foil, rinsed them in cold water, then poured the marinade on top and covered the dish with plastic wrap.

(By the way, I am a huge fan of that Heinz ‘Simply Ketchup’.  It turns out it’s their 1950’s ketchup recipe, using a little more vinegar and cane sugar, versus today’s recipe made with TWO corn syrups.  It’s a bit more tangy and just right.)

After spending overnight in the fridge, I preheated the oven to 375F and transferred the 2 chops to a 9 x 9 pyrex bakiing dish.  I poured HALF of the sauce over the top.  Baked 25 minutes, turned the chops over and poured in remaining sauce, then baked another 20 minutes.   (Don’t bake them any longer, that sauce begins to smoke!)

Half the sauce, ready to go into the oven

Finally, I guess you can see in the picture my box of instant potatoes and canned green beans.  I never claimed to be a Julia Child or Gigi Hawaii!

But here’s a couple good hacks; for the mashed potatoes (where I make 2 servings), the box says to use 2/3 cup water & 1/3 cup milk.

Use 2/3 cup milk and 1/3 cup water instead; I also stir in 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.  They’ll taste more homemade.

For the canned green beans, don’t just heat them up; drain the water and saute them in a teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 chunk of one slice of bacon for 5 minutes.  It makes all the difference.  By the way, that sauce is PERFECT over the mashed potatoes!


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Dena, Mike & Terry: Two aunts and an uncle


Yesterday (well, the day before yesterday by the time you read this) my sister Shawn sent me this recent photo of our Aunt Dena, Uncle Mike & Aunt Terry.  Our dad’s two sisters and brother.

I have no real reason for sharing it here, other than I like looking at it.  It’s the first photo I’ve seen of the three together since my niece Sophia’s first birthday party 16 years ago.

Aunt Dena (on the left) is the oldest, in her upper eighties, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her.  She’s always been trim, fit, a very health conscious person.   I remember at my dad’s 30th birthday party, held in our large backyard and attended by over a hundred people, I was charged with the dirty task of emptying all the ashtrays.  (It was 1967, so I’m sure you can imagine.)  Anyway, I noticed Aunt Dena was the only adult not smoking, and when I brought it up to my mom, she said “Your Aunt Dena’s always been a health nut—she’s going to outlive all of us!” 

I never forgot that, and the older I get the more I believe it.  You know, other than exchanging Christmas letters with Aunt Dena my adult life, we never really talked.  And then in January 2017, I ran into her back home at a Giant Eagle, and we sat on a bench inside the store and chatted for an hour.  I learned more in that hour then I’d known my whole life.

Aunt Dena, Uncle Mike (bottom) and Aunt Terry, 1942.  That’s my dad on the far right    

My Uncle Mike & I have always had some sort of implied understanding.  He would look at me, nod his head and not say a word, I’d do the same.   But even though we’ve never sat down and had a real chat, I’ve never felt distance between us.

At my dad’s funeral in February 2001, I think I cried harder there than I ever did before or since.  I don’t understand it, I was much closer to my mom but at her services I didn’t shed a tear.  (I bawled at night instead, for weeks.) 

But standing in front of my dad’s casket, I couldn’t stop myself and wept for a long time.  The entire time, my Uncle Mike stood behind me, his hands on my shoulders.  The entire time.  I hope he knows how much that meant to me.   He & my dad were very close.

And finally, my fun, ornery Aunt Terry.  For years she would greet us kids—“Hi Duke, hi Dougie, hi Shawnie, hi Stevie…”  and then give me these long hugs.  One time, we were at some family event and I said to my mom “I know Aunt Terry loves all of us the same, but have you ever noticed how she hugs me compared to the other kids?  I always get a maternal feeling from her that I can’t explain.”

Mom said “When you were around a year old, you were a holy terror.  I’m not kidding Doug, there were times I was ready to kill you.  But we were still living with your Grandma & Pap Morris then, and your Aunt Terry was still living at home, so you pretty much became hers until we moved out when your sister Shawn came along.  Still think I’m Mother of the Year?”  Haha!  Yes Mom, I do.

Aunt Dena with my brother Duke, and me with Aunt Terry, Sept 1962


Friday, September 10, 2021

Top 9 reasons I know I’m getting old, Special Homecoming 2021 Edition

My sister Shawn recently took her 16 year old daughter Sophia shopping for her 2021 Homecoming dress.  As my niece tried on several of them, my sister emailed these pics to me.

Eye rolling smile                   Surprised smile                    Crying face

I may not be in touch with the times, but she looks like she’s been invited to a wing-ding at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy mansion! 

Just for the heck of it, here’s a photo of some girls in their fomal dresses from 1979, the year I graduated high school. 

I miss the styles then, but are any of these girls the second smartest in their class?  Sophia is!