Father’s Day Tales

 

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My dad

It is about 3 weeks ago when I meet Brian, an electrician and father of 4. I am babysitting Annabelle and he is doing some repairs to my daughter’s and son in law’s house. My best guess is that Brian is in his young 30’s. He’s quite professional and quickly explains the electrical issues with the house and how to repair them. He goes about the work to be done.

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Happy Father’s Day, Sam

As he emerges from the basement, work completed, he meets Annabelle who is now awake from a long nap. He instantly greets her with the most endearing tone and smile. It is at this time I ask, “Do you have kids?” His shoulders slump and there is a sudden change in his demeanor, “My son died a year ago.” I instantly recognize the pain in his voice and that grief in his eyes. I understand and I let him know.

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Happy Father’s Day, Bill

 

I take a deep breath and simply ask, “What is your son’s name? “ He brightens for a moment and chats for several minutes about his son before ever revealing he has three more children at home. It’s quite remarkable, this grief thing. It swallows one whole. The most reassuring thing I can muster in the moment is to let this dad know he is not alone. I hope Brian is having a great day with his children.

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Happy Father’s Day to my brothers….you learned well from the greatest generation

It is around the same time, 3 weeks ago, while visiting my sister in-law, I discover an old diary written by my dad during WWll. My sister in law, Evelyn, thought I might like to have it. I never knew the diary existed. I did know, however, my dad was a bomber plane mechanic stationed in England. He never talked about his war experience except to mention that he danced with Miss America when she was on tour with the USO.

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I thought I knew my dad pretty well until I read his diary. It felt like an invasion of privacy, but I gained huge insight into this great man and father. His writings are not only an authentic historical account of the world war in the 1940’s, but quite a fascinating look into his life at age 25.

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In deplorable conditions and constantly under fire his only concern is to repair the planes that have been riddled with bullets to the best of his ability. He is in awe of the brave pilots that fly these “ships” and anguished when he buries one of them. His only fear is not getting back home to his family and fiancée, Edith. My dad was a good soldier who served his country well. No doubt he loved his family, friends and country. My William is his clone.

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Happy Father’s Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Respect Your ElderBerries

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Retirement? What’s that? I have never been so busy in my life. On any given day I am cooking/baking up a storm, baby-sitting my grand-daughter, tending the garden and traveling here or there. I am not complaining, but here is the thing. While my mind still thinks I am 30, the body knows I am double that number. I get a bit tired a bit quicker, but that is not going to stop me. While I always taught my children to respect their elders I just can’t believe I am that person now. I will do whatever it takes to stay healthy, vibrant and energetic because I have a sweet grand-daughter who is no longer walking, but running. “Wait for Kiki Annabelle”!

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Enter elderberries. Recently, I was gifted some elderberry products from Ann & Rodger Lenhardt of Norm’s Farms. The information on the web site is fascinating. I didn’t know much about elderberries, but in my research learned that Hippocrates (ancient Greek father of medicine) referred to “elders” as his “medicine chest”. High in vitamin C, iron, antioxidants and potassium elderberries outshine all those other “super fruits” that seem to have gotten lots of press lately. Not only are the berries nutritious, but they are delicious and come in a variety of supplements, syrups and jams to boost your immune system and good health.

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I very much enjoyed developing a few recipes with Norm’s Farms products. First up is a very simple appetizer (great for those outdoor deck parties y’all are throwing right now) using the most sweet and savory Elderberry Ginger Pecan Jam. I love the crunch contrast of the pecans mixed in with the fruit. Next Thanksgiving skip the cranberry sauce and serve this jam with your roast turkey. You heard it here first.

Crispy Melted Cheese Cups with Elderberry Ginger Pecan Jam

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1-package (15 count) mini fillo shells

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Norm’s Farms Elderberry Ginger Pecan Jam

Heat oven 350F. Mix cream cheese, cheddar cheese and pepper until well blended. Remove shells from all packaging. Fill shells with cheese mixture and place on a baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Remove tray from oven and top each with a small spoonful of jam. Return to oven and bake 1 to 2 more minutes or until heated through. Makes 15 small bites.

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The next recipe uses Norm’s Farms Blueberry Elderberry Preserves. While developing a dessert recipe would have been the obvious choice I decided on another savory one. Plus this vinaigrette does double duty as a salad dressing and marinade taking full advantage of all the greens in my garden and the grill. After all, the weather is so fine right now I’m betting you’d rather be outside enjoying yourself rather than stuck in the kitchen.

Blueberry Elderberry Vinaigrette & Marinade

¼ cup Norm’s Farms Blueberry Elderberry Preserves

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce (regular or low-sodium)

2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Whisk all ingredients until well blended. Drizzle over your favorite salad as a vinaigrette or use as a marinade on fresh chicken and/or pork. I like to marinade meat overnight and grill the next day.

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Norm’s Farms products are sold in many stores across the USA and can also be ordered directly from their web site. Click on the link, Norm’s Farms for more great recipes, too. Enjoy.

Why-Elderberry

elderberries from Norm’s Farm

Memorial Day Pass It On

John Is My Heart

By Frank Schaeffer of the Washington Post

“Before my son became a Marine, I never thought much about who was defending me.  Now when I read of the war on terrorism or the coming conflict in Iraq, it cuts to my heart. When I see a picture of a member of our military who has been killed, I read his or her name very carefully. Sometimes I cry.

In 1999, when the barrel-chested Marine recruiter showed up in dress blues and bedazzled my son John, I did not stand in the way.  John was headstrong, and he seemed to understand these stern, clean men with straight backs and flawless uniforms.  I did not.  I live in the Volvo-driving, higher education-worshiping North Shore of Boston I write novels for a living. I have never served in the military.

It had been hard enough sending my two older children off to Georgetown and New York University. John’s enlisting was unexpected, so deeply unsettling.  I did not relish the prospect of answering the question, “So where is John going to college?” from the parents who were itching to tell me all about how their son or daughter was going to Harvard.  At the private high school John attended, no other students were going into the military.

“But aren’t the Marines terribly Southern?”  (Says a lot about open-mindedness in the Northeast) asked one perplexed mother while standing next to me at the brunch following graduation.  “What a waste, he was such a good student,” said another parent.  One parent (a professor at a nearby and rather famous university) spoke up at a school meeting and suggested that the school should“ carefully evaluate what went wrong.”

When John graduated from three months of boot camp on Parris Island, 3000 parents and friends were on the parade deck stands.  We parents and our Marines not only were of many races but also were representative of many economic classes. Many were poor. Some arrived crammed in the backs of pickups, others by bus.  John told me that a lot of parents could not afford the trip.

We in the audience were white and Native American.  We were Hispanic, Arab, and African American, and Asian. We were former Marines wearing the scars of battle, or at least baseball caps emblazoned with battles’ names.  We were Southern whites from Nashville and skinheads from New Jersey, black kids from Cleveland wearing ghetto rags and white ex-cons with ham-hock forearms defaced by jailhouse tattoos.  We would not have been mistaken for the educated and well-heeled parents gathered on the lawns of John’s private school a half-year before.

After graduation one new Marine told John, “Before I was a Marine, if I had ever seen you on my block I would’ve probably killed you just because you were standing there.” This was a serious statement from one of John’s good friends, a black ex-gang member from Detroit who, as John said, “would die for me now, just like I’d die for him.”

My son has connected me to my country in a way that I was too selfish and insular to experience before.  I feel closer to the waitress at our local diner than to some of my oldest friends.  She has two sons in the Corps.  They are facing the same dangers as my boy.  When the guy who fixes my car asks me how John is doing, I know he means it.  His younger brother is in the Navy.

Why were I and the other parents at my son’s private school so surprised by his choice?  During World War II, the sons and daughters of the most powerful and educated families did their bit.  If the idea of the immorality of the Vietnam War was the only reason those lucky enough to go to college dodged the draft, why did we not encourage our children to volunteer for military service once that war was done?

Have we wealthy and educated Americans all become pacifists?  Is the world a safe place?  Or have we just gotten used to having somebody else defend us?  What is the future of our democracy when the sons and daughters of the janitors at our elite universities are far more likely to be put in harm’s way than are any of the students whose dorms their parents clean?

I feel shame because it took my son’s joining the Marine Corps to make me take notice of who is defending me.  I feel hope because perhaps my son is part of a future “greatest generation.”  As the storm clouds of war gather, at least I know that I can look the men and women in uniform in the eye.  My son is one of them.  He is the best I have to offer.  John is my heart.

“Faith is not about everything turning out OK; Faith is about being OK no matter how things turn out.”
Oh, how I wish so many of our younger generations could read this article.  It makes me so sad to hear the way they talk with no respect for what their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers experienced so they can live in freedom.   Freedom has been replaced with Free-Dumb.  Please pass this on . . . .