Nice to have home to return to

Archived | June 18, 2012 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. The house was quiet. No one was asking me about world peace or what is and isn’t genetic or how mosquitos just appear in clouds out of nowhere. There were no suggestions for dinner, and no one to share with me the lovely strawberry shortcake I threw together during the show. They were out, everyone. Mr. Sundberg has been in New York City for a stretch of days giving a talk called, “Authenticity: The Path to Joy.” Two of the kids were at work, and the third was out looking for work.
How bout that. I almost felt guilty, sitting there with my shortcake and berries and whipped topping all piled up on a plate, my feet up on the ottoman, my spirits up after singing “I’ll Fly Away” along with Mr. Keillor on the radio. What a thing to have your offspring, all within months of each other, search for and find work for the first time in their lives. It’s a blessed thing, when you attempted to raise them up with the Right Ideas in their heads about what is and isn’t of value in life. And only one of ’em is working out of financial necessity. The other two, and I quote, “Want to do something important over the summer.” Well, now. Seems all those lectures may have had some effect after all.
My first job wasn’t for pay, but it was a job. I was a volunteer, three days a week, 9-4, at the nursing home in my hometown. I spent the three summers of Junior High reading books to older people, playing chess with them, writing and reading letters, helping with bedding changes and getting dressed and emergency bathroom visits and clean-up when someone didn’t make it in time. I played beanbag toss and pushed wheelchairs out on the sidewalk for time in the sun and often just sat with someone over lunch. It was a strange time, and I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was compelled, each summer, to return.
Gaida was the name of the oldest woman there, my favorite, a lady who couldn’t hold her head up straight and who insisted I sing with her as I pushed her around the parking lot. It would take awhile to tell you why, but I loved her. And didn’t quite understand that until the August day I showed up at the home to find Gaida’s room empty and the curtains drawn. My boss, the nursing home manager, told me Gaida had died in the night, natural causes.
I worked the rest of that day, and somewhere between the nursing home and my home, I began to cry, and I didn’t stop til after I’d cried in my bedroom awhile. I cried hard. Not so much because my friend had died, but because I was unfamiliar with loss, and didn’t quite see it fair that I hadn’t said goodbye. Or something.
That was the last summer I volunteered at the nursing home in town; it was time to move on to fast food restaurants and drive-thrus and paychecks. I missed that place, though, and those people, and playing chess on the patio with Earl and Lily and George. I miss it now. Seems like a thousand years ago, and it seems like only yesterday. And now the kids are out there, in that world. Such lessons await, and all good. Nice to have home to return to. Sure is.
Here’s one humdinger of a fine dessert cake. Double up on your ingredients, because you’ll be making another tomorrow if you try this one today.
Orange Cream Cake
One 3 oz pkg orange Jell-O
3/4 c boiling water
1 pkg yellow cake mix
4 eggs
3/4 cup oil
Three tsp orange extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp grated orange zest
Grease a tube or bundt pan. Dissolve gelatin in boiling water and cool. Add cake mix and beat until smooth. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each. Slowly add oil. Fold in extracts and zest. Bake at 350 for 50 min.
Orange Sauce
Two tsp softened butter
Two cups pwd sugar
1/2 cup warm water
Eight oz froz oj concentrate at room temp
Combine butter and sugar. Whisk til smooth. Keep whisking and add water and oj. Use a chopstick or such to poke holes in cake and pour sauce over. Let cake cool before removing from pan. I have let the cake cool, removed it from the pan, and THEN poked the holes and poured the sauce over. For presentation’s sake. Whatever works for you.