For the vast majority of the past 30 years, I would have spent the 14th of February in as much of a holiday mood as possible. Penny and I would have traded off making fancy food items, though the amounts and complexity varied and had been greatly reduced for a while.
Today, I believe it would have been steaks - not rib steaks, but tenderloin, cut very thick, and then butterflied out into a heart shape, and not a huge amount. We'd have fresh asparagus, steamed, served 'bagna cauda' style - with melted butter, olive oil, anchovies, and a clove of garlic to flavor the oil, in a fondue pot. Oh, and probably artichoke hearts and pieces as well, if I'd been able to find them.
The excess would be absorbed by small personal-sized baguettes - they make them at the local New Seasons, and if they had the wine guy there we'd have gotten a decent pink-to-light-red wine to go with the meal - because we'd also have dungeness crab, one crab between the two of us, shelled out and warmed in the bagna cauda and laid across the baguettes.
And for dessert, well, I saw today that a chef realized how to make a mousse by simply melting good quality chocolate and water together, then whipping it in a chilled bowl. That would be dessert.
But for the last six years, that's not been possible, since Penny was in an uncharacteristic hurry to get to the party first. My great thrill today was working for ten hours to try to figure out why a firmware update process was failing, culminating with my tester's brown thumb resulting in a system which won't boot (I'll have to use a flash programmer to physically rewrite a clean image.)
At least it kept me focussed and not moping.
So. 31 years ago, at about 2pm, Penny and I joined our lives together; we managed almost 25 years before her body became so much of a prison that God freed her.
Also, on Saturday I went over to the Smith's for a visit, a prolonged game of Settlers of Catarn, and a dinner out. When I got there, an instance of the little pink dragon - a red salamander - was on the sidewalk, saying hello.
And with that I am going to go to bed now.
Has it really been six years?
It feels like forever, and like yesterday. The joy of memory, right?
I still find myself wanting to share something with Penny, to talk to her about something, but there's that veil between us that won't budge.
It's been five years since I felt the loss like a sledgehammer resting in my chest the day after it was slammed in.
I still haven't gone through her clothes to give away or sell the things that need to go elsewhere, and to recycle the rest. I have found some of the things I wanted to find, pictures and such.
I haven't scanned in the letters she wrote back in college. Partly this is because I don't really have a "scanner setup" computer station, and partly because I haven't forced myself to take the time.
This year would have been our 31st anniversary. A prime number. When I would do my rare bits of math geekery, she'd be amused, but if it was too involved, she'd point out that she was a math atheist.
All the rules and stuff were made up.
Well, she was right, for nearly everything past arithmetic, the rules and stuff ARE made up. It works, but the wrapper we put around it is semi-arbitrary.
Even though our anniversary is February 14th, I was remembering our habit of anniversary dinners yesterday.
The first anniversary, 1982, Penny made a very very fancy dinner.
A mushroom soup, made the way our favorite restaurant in Berkeley made it. (This is basically a french mushroom soup, made with chicken or veal stock, cream, butter, and fresh mushrooms, and a very small amount of flour. It's actually a white sauce, thinned with broth to become soup.)
Asparagus (steamed not boiled) with Hollandaise sauce.
A perfect sirloin steak cooked to the precise point between rare and medium-rare.
Mashed garlic potatoes extra heavy on the garlic, with a small amount of cream cheese mixed in, and served with butter rather than gravy (although a pan sauce from the steak would have gone well, we didn't know about them yet.)
There was a dessert, and a wine, and I'm sure there was another dish but I don't remember it right now.
I just remember that we were too full to eat the desert and the other thing, just then.
I believe our anniversary dinner the next year (1983) involved a risotto. At some point in the 1983 time frame I began making cheesecakes, mostly for friends. We also watched a Great Chefs episode and found the recipe for a "death chocolate" cake which we modified ... I put it on the net for a friend, and it somehow got migrated and published in the Oregonian food section, word for word including my intentional misspelling of one word (and our names and copyrights taken off, which I yelled at their food editor for, to no particular avail since they continued for a while to take and print things from Usenet as if they were copyright-free).
I miss you, Penny. Tomorrow will be the anniversary day itself, and I'm going to try to take it off, if I can. If I do, then I'll either spend the afternoon at St. Bart's, or I'll take a nap and see if I get another dream conversation.
My father, William Bernard Hutchison, passed away this morning.
He was 77 or 78, I'm not sure which.
I talked with my stepmother Betty, and he had been declining, but it was still not completely expected. (She's doing ok, mostly numb a bit, but glad in a way that he isn't suffering now. He wouldn't complain that much to me when I called, though.)
For the last too-many years he was too sick to move around a lot. He spent far more time than he wanted to, in hospitals. He was on oxygen for quite a while, thank you Phillip Morris, and he had a bum heart thanks to unrecognized sleep apnea.
I lost touch with him from time to time; my plan to call him on Labor Day fell thru because the line was busy and I hadn't gotten back to it, but it wasn't urgent. Mostly we'd chat a bit until one of us got tired of talking then hang up.
There won't be a funeral; he didn't want one and wasn't a fan of religion, organized or otherwise. Not sure what he believed in that regard, as we didn't really talk about it often; he was raised in the old-time Montana racist tradition of ignorance and I wasn't going to break what relationship we had by poking too hard at it, too often. He wasn't stupid, not at all. He was, however, limited in/by what he'd learned, especially some rather toxic lies common to the time and place he grew up.
I never knew him to actually hate another person, nor to try to do anyone harm from malice. He fought with my stepmom from time to time, but everyone did; she has the power to shred the bark off trees with her scolding. She's gotten a lot more mellow over time.
I talked a bit with my stepmother; she told me he'd been given a six-months warning the previous week, and they had talked about the things that two people talk about who've been together for along time, and that he was at peace with the idea that he'd die in a short time, but wasn't especially eager to... that he'd go when "The Man Upstairs" called.
He did believe on God, but not necessarily any of the dogma and doctrine; I figure that given how very thoroughly the moralists and religious judges rejected my Mom, and him by association, when she became pregnant with me (at a very young age, and he was 21) ... he figured that whatever they said they believed it didn't have much value, and it wasn't about love or forgiveness like they said.
So, instead of six months he had six or so days; God doesn't always seem to use the same measure for time that we do.
I'll miss you, Dad. I'll miss our talks, but maybe, God being merciful and loving, we can talk again later.
There's a coffee hour on the 8th; Dad didn't want a fancy funeral. And on his birthday, I'll have one glass of beer in his honor.
note, comments are possibly disabled as I've been getting annoying anonymous spam and I'm trying to filter.
Edit to add some things I've learned and to fix a few typos.
Over the past month and a half, I have had a chronic, annoying sensation of something sitting on my soft palate, as if it were a giant banana slug perched in my nasal passages, slowly taking over my brain.
I am informed that this is NOT in fact a cephalopodian intruder, but rather, most likely it is simply an allergy.
Oh dear god, if this is NORMAL for allergies, then I am all for refocusing major parts of our national budget in the search for a cure!