Five years-thereabouts…

I give thanks on the day he was born every year. July 24, 1946 is worth mentioning. Taking into consideration I wouldn’t be born for another 4-1/2 years, Larry was not part of my life very long, but what an impact he made. I used to dream what life would have been like had he lived longer, but the decades flew by and it’s hard to imagine my life with Larry still in it, so I tend to focus on short section of my life when he was a part of it. A big part. After discounting the years I was a baby and adding up the total however, not very long. Five years-thereabouts.

Larry 2, Mona 5 with dad 1948…

I wasn’t planned. Oops. Mom and Dad had the all-American family, a girl and a boy. Money was tight, the house was small, pay on the railroad was not great and I think an occasional lay-off from work was involved every year. Mom stayed home with my sibs but was determined to find a job as soon as Mona and Larry were in school full time. (Kindergarten was half days back then). Just as Mom was seeing light at the end of tunnel after 8 years of marriage and 2 school age kids, I was getting ready to make my entrance at the end of 1950.

Larry & me, early 1951…

I never felt unwanted though. The four of them doted on their new baby sister, especially Larry. He could have been resentful, assuming he was the baby of the family but he loved me. When I was a toddler he let me tag along in our big back yard or empty lots across the street. He stopped me once after a neighbor kid told me we were growing raisins in our yard. They were actually bunny turds on the ground below the rabbit hutches. Larry always had my back. Even when it was a pain or embarrassing.

Larry and Mona, 1949…

When we moved a mile away and a mere block and a half from Main Street, we didn’t play together as much as living on the west edge of town. There were more kids scrunched together in the middle of town. The school playground was 2 blocks east, and a shopping mecca to meet the simple needs of consumers-young and old, a block away in the other direction. Where you could buy multiple sweet treats when you had one thin dime in your pocket.

Mona 13, Neese 5-1/2, Spitzy & Larry 10, 1956…

It was 1955 and there were limitations to where this 4-1/2 year-old could venture, but Larry was 9 and had the run of the town. He had tons of friends, was crazy about baseball and shooting marbles in our driveway. He had a BB gun, a Schwinn bike, baseball cards up the wazoo (early to late 1950’s, what some of those cards must be worth today!) and always had a baseball card of a less popular player/team clicking in the spoke of his bike. Dad was a big Yankee fan so Larry probably followed suit. The difference in our ages really started to dictate how much we saw of each other. I was busy making friends. Girls my own age who wanted to play dolls or drive-inn using my cool play house in the backyard.

Larry’s kindergarten hand plaque…

Being born after him means I missed much of Larry’s already too short life. It still makes me part envious and a little bitter. So many everyday occurrences happened in his life I wasn’t privy to, him just being a daredevil boy. The 3 years we lived on 15th street before he died, he was this big kid who could be gone for hours without my parents worrying about him or getting in trouble. He was zipping around town with Dickie, Norm and Ken. These kids saw the goofy Larry, the baseball crazy friend who shot marbles left-handed. The fair haired, super blonde with a funny lisp. They had endless days with him hanging out at the dump and Van Zee’s sand pit with a small enticing island. Or catching pigeons in the rafters of barns after it was dark. I never got to go pigeon hunting with him and dad. Not that I wanted to but causes me pain to realize how much of his life I missed.

Day-cation 1956, Larry behind me, Mona and dad…

But we always had family time too. Mom cooked supper every night which was on the table by 5:30. Pretty standard procedure, no one was late or missed supper. We didn’t take long vacations, (I’m sure they were too expensive) but I remember several day-trips to Lake Okoboji, the Spencer County fair, visiting the Grotto in West Bend, Iowa, and the dam at Yankton, South Dakota on a miserably cold, wet day.

Visiting the Grotto in 1956, Larry, Mona and me…

Larry mowed yards, shoveled snow, helped our grandpa Gerritson and sold pigeons for spending money. One Christmas he bought mom a new fry pan. A little bit on the small side, maybe an 8” for our family of 5 but she was thrilled. Many years after he was gone she continued to use his last gift. The black Bakelite handle had long since crumbled into pieces so she always had a potholder handy when she grabbed the naked metal. That was the year he bought me a small, stuffed brown bear, which I still have.

Larry’s baseball glove…

No matter how hard I rack my brain, I’ve only got so many memories of Larry and nothing I can do to change that. Five year’s worth-not much. The Saturday morning he was riding (my bike, because he needed the basket) bike and got hit by a car remains vivid but horrific. Mom screaming, running in the street after a phone call. An hour later there was no place to park for 2 blocks on 15th street-waiting for dad to get home from Hawarden-30 miles away. Members from our church-wanting to help mom break the news to dad their only son had been killed.

Can’t help it, I love his headstone with his last school picture…

Still, it feels good to write another story about life with my big brother (repetitious, sorry about that). Larry would be 75 today so it’s been 63 years since I saw his beaming smile, blonde head or heard him speak. Each year brings me a bit closer to my reunion not only with Larry, but mom, dad, Mona and the grandmother I never met who died when mom was 2 weeks old. What a day that will be! Happy heavenly birthday Larry Wayne, July 24, 1946 to October 11, 1958…

Menial Tasks…

When you’re young and strong, they’re the mundane chores you never think about until you can no longer perform them. All of a sudden the little things you’ve always taken for granted are not only elusive but pritnear impossible to accomplish. What a difference 5 years makes.

Lugging wet laundry out to the clothesline, 1977…

Seems like I just got this 70 year old body out of the repair shop for a routine maintenance check after my warranty expired, when another part wears out, cracks or freezes up. While none have had a devastating affect on my life, it’s become exceedingly frustrating.

Since when did mash potatoes become hard? (They aren’t if you cook them long enough! Some starchy humor). We often have mashed potatoes on Tuesday’s when Ariana and Jovi come over for supper. I blaming the Hubs (that was easy). About two years ago he made fried shrimp for supper (yum). We’re old and lazy and rarely eat at the table anymore unless some serious cutting with a steak knife is involved. BTW, not eating at the table goes against everything I grew up with or we did as a family when our kids were little. We ate supper together at the kitchen or dining room table more often than not. Now John and I fill our plates, and watch a 42 minute program while we eat before I clean up the kitchen.

So getting back to our little shrimp fest. Hubs forgot to turn the burner off which housed the pan of oil. (Had we been seated at the table like civilized humans instead of in the next room, one of us certainly would have noticed or smelled hot oil-I hope). It was on low but the pan was scorched beyond the two days I was willing to try and clean it. Well that was my potato pan, so I had to move up to a bigger sized pan when I’m cooking. Unfortunately I can no longer lift the pan from the stove to the sink, (3 lousy feet) drain the water and place it on a hot pad for mashing. I now prop it precariously on the side of the sink, tip the lid a half inch (doing my best to avoid the free steam bath burn) to get rid of the water. Ten years ago I could lift a peck of cooked beets in an 8 quart pan filled with purple boiling water and drain them suckers. Now I can’t do 2 pounds of spuds. How did this happen?

This worked to open jars and bottles until recently…

When we were in Yuma 5 years ago I went to a church craft show with my sister-in-law and bought a small rectangular piece of gorilla shelf liner used in cupboards so tableware doesn’t slip and slide around. The outside edge is crocheted. My purpose was using it to open jars and plastic screw topped Diet Pepsi bottles. Kept conveniently on the counter and it’s worked until 2021. My hand no longer has the strength to twist this grippy cloth and if I do get the lid to budge, pain shoots through my hand, pulsating in the bottom of my thumb for several minutes. Dang it, this is making me crazy.

What I use now. For how long remains a mystery…

Hubs ordered a gadget with several sized openings which have tiny grippers which hugs whatever sized lid you’ve inserted. Instead of my fingers and thumb doing most of the work, my supper bottle of Diet Pepsi is unscrewed with more of a twist of my wrist causing no discomfort. So far it’s worked great.

Love the smell but it’s not relieving my stress very much…

My next annoying ‘why can’t I do this anymore’ is my stinking ‘smells wonderful’ shampoo. The 16 ounce plastic bottle has a lid where the top part opens when you ‘pop’ it up with your thumb. My thumb has decided its no longer going to participate in this daily exercise. There’s not a big enough gap between the lid and microscopic indentation where my thumb should easily be able to snap that sucker open. Most days I can’t get it open using both thumbs. Argh. Now I have to grab the wet washcloth, using 2 thumbs and push up on the lid flipper.

Looks easy enough to flip open but is beyond my capabilities…

I know what you’re thinking. Just leave the exasperating, aggravating lid off the shampoo and pour a dot every morning, eliminating that minor irritant. However, you simply can not grasp how obsessive I am about my shampoo. That little quirk started 20 years ago when I got hooked on a John Frieda Shampoo for colored hair (by accident-the shampoo not the coloring part. I was still doing that on purpose). I forgot my overnight bag when I was driving 800 miles to visit my parents. Stopped at Walgreens during the trip and bought a set of travel sized hair care products. After using it once I wanted to grow my hair long just so it would be easier to smell. Sick, I know. A few years later Frieda discontinued the hair color treated type, forcing me to buy every bottle available on the black (after) market. Ok, it was e-Bay but every bottle was exorbitantly expensive. And I ran out of the shampoo (but not the conditioner-might have enough for my life expectancy) maybe 3 years ago. No problem because I stopped dyeing my hair about the same time.

My over abundance of conditioner…

Stumbled upon a great Bath and Body Works shampoo soon after only to realize they produced it occasionally. Our local store just started carrying the shampoo again so now I’m up to my eyeballs with bottles of the stuff which should suffice for my lifetime. Should I leave the bottle open and unprotected, my fear is when Hubs is showering he might fall prey to one of his sneezing fits (which last about 5 minutes with wind gusts between a Category 2 and 3). The tile wall is fairly safe but a less than pound plastic bottle of my favorite smelly shampoo on a dinky tiled, grouted shelf would be toast. You understand my concern now right? I should just look for a generic bottle that’s easier to open and fill it with my shampoo.

Here’s my last irksome task which has become combative. Everything gets placed in the sink before I do dishes (yes I still wash them by hand and never use my dishwasher. A waste of kitchen space in my tiny kitchen) that has a lid, like our double wall, insulated water glasses, Hubs loosens them or I end up carrying it into the family room, soap suds running down my arm and I’m about to fling that sucker across the street! The big picture is my overall health is excellent and I fully recognize and accept these loathsome changes as part of my aging process. I have much to be grateful for but that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to ‘pitch a bitch’ about what’s happening in my life that’s driving me to distraction. Anyone younger than 60, you’ve been warned…

The Comment Debate…

Facebook. I love it half the time and hate it just as often. I realize without FB I would have 100 less people that I’m friends with, mostly from my Iowa childhood hometown. For a loner that’s significant and I’m grateful. But FB is nosey and likes to keep track of everything. So I don’t post or comment very often. Pictures of my grandchildren, food or canning pictures and my WordPress blog post that I move from their platform to share on my FB home page. I stay away from all quizzes where they ask leading questions like, “what would your first name be if it was your grandmother’s maiden name?”

Mag (the good cook) and her baby (the Hubs) 1990…

Nearly four months ago it started out simple enough. It must have been posted by one of my friends but I don’t recall who. A question posted from The Slow-roasted Italian. Worded like, “Who adds mustard to Mayo when you’re making potato salad?” Oh my goodness. I’d say I started a shitshow or shitstorm but I’m trying to refrain from saying shit so often. (I don’t think it’s working). Well sh—. Never mind.

The delicious or offensive bowl of potato salad causing all the ruckus…

For the record, I don’t care for Mayo (whatever brand, but dang folks are passionately loyal and vocal on that subject), or Miracle Whip, the brand I prefer and never add either to my sandwich, not even my favorite, the BLT. But something’s gotta hold my Pea, 7-layer, Veggie slaw or potato salads together right? So it’s got to be one or the other as the base for my dressings. In my defense I don’t use one more often than the other in the various salads I make. But if I’ve always used Mayo for my pea salad, I would never switch it to Miracle Whip. Wouldn’t taste right. And I would never use anything but Miracle Whip in my potato salad. Period. There lies the rub. I never imagined there would be such a heated debate on my humbly written comment on how I make potato salad and what goes in it (or even on top of it). “Paprika you fool,” not sliced egg dusted with black pepper.

Being taught clean up duty followed cooking…

Anyone who follows my blog knows I couldn’t cook or bake when the Hubs and I eloped in 1969. Not because my mom was a bad cook. She was a good cook but never wanted me in her kitchen or messing it up. She wasn’t eager to teach me and I was less than eager to learn.

It seemed innocent and hardly offensive at the time…

Once the Hubs and I got hitched, I knew that had to change. We had to eat-period-and dining out wasn’t an option. (Payday was every other Friday, and a stop at McDonald’s was a big stretch on our minuscule budget). John’s mom, Mag was willing (even enthusiastic) to share her prowess in the kitchen. She was a fantastic cook and baker and I was better at retaining skills if the lesson was visual. So that’s the way she taught me. By standing side-by-side in her kitchen or mine. The only problem, Mag rarely measured ingredients. She just added a dash of this, a squirt of that, a small amount from the palm of her hand, a rounded spoonful, a titch or a pinch to most of her entrees and salads. Who needs those pesky measuring spoons anyway? So that’s how I learned. A few years ago, Erica my daughter-in-law asked for my potato salad recipe, I finally had to break down and make a big bowl with measuring cups and spoons handy. (After she made a large quantity for a potluck she lamented what a pain-in-the-ass it was and it would be long while before she offered to bring that stuff again). Hahaha.

And now some of my favorite comments
Haha…
This woman is hard to please…
Ok I’m done here…

Verbatim this is the comment I wrote: Miracle Whip, titch of yellow mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, potatoes, eggs, diced celery, radishes, sweet pickles, green onion. You’re welcome…

Live long and prosper…
Opposing views…

To which I added a picture of a bowl of my potato salad in my beautiful Blue Delft Bowl. Over the past several weeks there’s been 550 comments-about my comment. Holy sh—. Granted I answered almost half of those. Many were positive, heartfelt, grateful and nice. No one knocked my bowl. Duh. A few were downright unkind and most of those were written by guys. Sous-chef? Gourmet cook? Asswipe? I don’t know, but I never answered with a negative comment. Not once. (Although I did bless a few of their hearts).

He’s probably my age…
He didn’t think it was as funny as I did…
Graphic…
Hahaha…

The words in my comment causing the most discussion was MIRACLE WHIP and SUGAR, followed by hotly contested RADISHES and SWEET GHERKINS. (I mean who in their right mind would add such outlandish ingredients)? Only me I guess. Probably 50-50 on MW vs. Mayo. The Miracle Whip-ers were “yum,” “that’s my recipe,” “sounds good,” and “looks delicious “ while the Mayo enthusiasts were, “Hellman’s,” “Best Foods,” “never MW,” and a gif of Jim Carrey gagging (which makes me gag just to think of him-period).

That’s a long time…
Strong conviction…
Rather harsh…
Maybe a bit harsh back too…

But I learned a lot about the tastes we’ve grown accustomed to when talking about “their family’s recipe for the best potato salad in the world! And don’t you dare try anything different or change my mind.” Olives, bacon, orange juice, vinegar, green peppers, paprika, Bermuda onions, garlic powder, tomatoes, (my favorite food but not in potato salad) cucumbers, jalapeños, dill pickles. The list of people’s favorite ‘must include’ ingredients was lengthy. Others thought potatoes and eggs were enough and came down pretty hard on “too many crunchy things in there,” “or is this really just a dessert?”

Spelling lesson was well deserved…
Another teaching moment for Richard…

For a gal who avoids confrontation at all costs, it was an interesting few weeks. A couple times a day I’d read through the 40-50 new comments and answer a few, smiling, nodding or shaking my head in amazement thinking, it’s just a picture of the way I make my potato salad. Cool your jets. Be nice. Heaven help me should I actually ever write something controversial. Not in this lifetime…

A compliment and in my defense…