Monday, June 22, 2009

The weekend.

As usual, the weekend started last Friday. I didn't have to go to San Saba this last Friday. I've finished all the make-up classes from the week I went fishing. But I did have to go in to Ft. Hood and give a late exam.

One of the soldiers who'd taken my Government class this last semester had been unable to take the final exam and now was about to head back to Iraq. He'd called me just before I went fishing a few weeks ago. We finally got together Friday morning. He took his exam, I graded it and then turned in the paperwork to give him a grade. After that I took my car to the local Toyota place to get serviced. It was time for an oil change, tire rotation, balance, rotation and alignment check.

I sat around there for a while killin' time and then Denise came and picked me up. It was about 2PM, so we decided to go to Fuddrucker's for a burger. I had one of those half pound buffalo burgers, with a cookies-n-cream shake. Denise had something like a quarter pounder. Nether of us thought our burgers were as big as they should be. They must really shrink up on the grill.

After that she took me back to the Toyota place. They'd finished early. Told me they couldn't check my alignment because my tires are bad, unevenly worn, and the alignment check wouldn't work. So they put the best two tires on front and only charged me for the oil change. Oh, I'll keep drivin' these for a while, but I guess I need a new set of tires before this summers road trip. Nice!

After the trip to Fuddrucker's, Denise decided she was too full to go to eat Chinese food with Mom and I Friday evening. So I went over there by myself. Her loss, because the food was wonderful Friday night.

You've seen this before. Mom and I got to Dynasty later than we usually do. It was about 6:30PM, which means the place was crowded, and the food on the buffet was fresh. See, the larger the crowd, the faster the food has to be replaced, the fresher it is. There a science to this stuff. Stick with me. I'll take good care of ya.

Saturday was a lay around and relax day. We did a little puttering in the yard, but other than that we just relaxed. Sunday was looking like a similar kind of day, but the family had made plans. Mom told me last week that she was planning more fried chicken and Home-made Peach ice cream for Fathers Day. We'd come over and enjoy the big feed, and then we'd head out to the cemetery to make sure dad has some fresh looking flowers on his stone.

So, Denise and worked around the house and I worked on the computer until it came time to head over to Temple.

My job, in case you haven't seen one of these posts before, is to arrive with a big bag of ice and get the ice cream going. Mom was already most of the way through frying the chicken, and the pile was high!

Mom had already mixed the cream, as usual. So I get to work, putting the contraption together and getting it going.

Meanwhile, the new family tradition has my better half, Denise, mixing the drinks. Usually she makes Strawberry Daiquiris, but this time she had a different plan.

This time she mixed up a batch of sweet little Margaritas in mom's blender. I reached up on the top shelf and brought down the good glasses, and presto...

Mmmm, I tell ya, she does a good job. But no sooner did I turn my back to get a gulp of this icy goodness than out of the corner of my eye I see Denise sneaking some chicken from the pile.

FOUL! there's no sneaking a piece without giving the big dude a bite! So, as you can see, she offered. And I took. Aaaah, white meat. I've never been a fan. Dark meat only for the FHB. The three ladies in the house all prefer the white stuff, so she can steal all of that she wants. Let them fight over it, so long as they keep their mitts off my thighs and legs.

Happily for everyone, there was plenty of goodness to go around. Enough that after gorging ourselves Sunday there was enough left over for me to have chicken for breakfast this morning. And even after that there's one big thigh left. Breakfast for Tuesday? Sho nuff!

Back to work! After a time, you can hear the motor start to labor. The cream is freezing and thickening, making the motor work a little harder.

Of course, as all this merriment went down, thoughts of the absent reveler were close to my mind. I'll never forget all those Sundays in the 1960s and early '70s, having to sit on top of the old ice cream maker as dad worked the handle. In time, a sign of growing up was when I shifted from sitting on top to turning the handle while dad held it down.

These are memories as old as our family, like the weekend mornings when dad would whip up some S.O.S. for our breakfast, or the football games on TV when he'd operate the popcorn maker, standing over the stove and grinding it to make sure the popcorn didn't burn. Cherished memories. So he was there with us, watching to make sure I did it all right. He trained me well.

The magic happens when the motor stops and my job shifts to opening the tub, making sure no rock salt has contaminated the goods, and then spooning out four portions of the fair nectar. usually mom gets the first helping, but this time she came into the kitchen and told me to bring the first two plates to my sister and Denise. While I did that she started to spoon out her own glass of ice cream, and then it was my turn.

Of course, there's wisdom in the order of things. The sweetest ice cream is always at the bottom of the bin. We've been doing this enough that these sorts of details become ingrained. So the first two or three glasses of cream are spooned out so that mom and I can get down to the good stuff.

After everyone has had their fill, the left over ice cream is spooned into bins and placed in the freezer for later, and the chicken is parceled out in to different bags. One, with a mix of light and dark meat, is left for Denise and I. The other is left for mom and sis. Then, after I clean up the machine and leave it out to dry, mom, Denise and I headed to the cemetery.

Mom has always been the one in the extended family to see to it that the plastic flowers on the graves of her siblings, in-laws and others were always fresh looking and seasonally appropriate. It was time for us to go out and replace the flowers on her parentsd grave and make sure dad's flowers looked good. I drove, and then Denise helped mom arrange the flowers and place them on the stones.

Dad's marker turned out looking pretty good, and it turned out there were plenty of flowers left over to give my grandparents a nice new bouquet.

That's Denise and mom, workin' on the old folks headstone.

If you blow up this shot and look just above Denise's head, to the left, you can see a sad sight. There was an old guy out there, sitting on a bench in front of... I'm assuming it's his fathers grave, drinking a beer(?), crying. I was touched by that.

It would never occur to me to come out here and talk to my father. He's always with me, in one way or the other, everywhere I go. I talk to him whenever something happens that brings a memory up. Sometimes I cry, but those times are becoming fewer and fewer. Mostly I just remember things and smile to myself. The old, bad times are withering away, but that started before he died. Why dwell on all of that? It serves no good purpose.

Mom borrowed my pocket knife at one point so she could cut away at the green styrofoam and begin to place the flowers down into the vase that's attached to her mom and dad's headstone. Meanwhile, Denise made sure the bouquet was arranged in the right order.

Nice eh? They did a wonderful job, and I made it through the whole thing without balling.

We drove mom home after that, sat around a bit longer and then headed out. Mom said something about hearing that the Corn Festival was happening this weekend down in Holland, so we decided to make a run by there to see if it was still going on. Of course, we'd missed it all, but the trip to Holland gave me a chance to go by the graves of my Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents from the Wilson side of things who are buried there in the local cemetery.

I stood there with Denise, thinking about all the times I'd come with my dad to see the graves of his parents. They both died while we were deployed and living overseas in the 1960s ('64 and '69). I finally cried when I remembered standing there with dad, the first time he'd seen his mothers grave. He'd been unable to come home for her funeral. His brothers wouldn't hold it off till he could get there. I remembered being about ten years old, standing there and holding his hand. I saw that he was trying to hold it all back, but he couldn't. Men weren't supposed to cry back then. So I cried for him. Anyway, that's the way I see it now. I was just frightened and confused then. I'd never seen him cry before.

After that Denise and I drove home through the back country, back through Summers Mill and Belton, through the country that my father grew up in. I told her many of the same old stories dad had told me a million times. I showed her where he was born and where his family worked Mr. Hollands cotton fields in the '20s and '30s as sharecroppers. I showed her the farm my grandfather bought with the money my dad sent back from the war, and where dad burned his fathers clothes in '64 when he came home for the funeral. He told me he just couldn't stand the idea of anyone else wearing his fathers clothes.

We made it home by sundown, with the temperatures still up in the 90s. It was along weekend, as this has been another long post. But you'll be happy to know that the library in San Saba is closing, so the end is within sight.

You guys take care. I hope all of you had a great weekend, and all of you fathers had a wonderful Sunday! Cheers!


Sarge Charlie said...

Man, how long has it been since I had home made ice cream, I love that display you have to honor your father. I tip my hat to him on this fathers day.

stop by my place and you will understand more about me.

Mushy said...

Still going to try that one day!

Suldog said...

Dammit! I have to learn not to come over here when I'm hungry. I always end up eating twice as much as I should.

Grandpa-Old Soldier said...

Hell, I just finished lunch and come here and want to eat again. Home made Ice Cream. Haven't seen that in years. I remember when I was a boy, my Daddy use to make it with the old hand crank one. No electric ones back then. Hand Salute to your Dad.

david mcmahon said...

I can clearly remember the fondness in your posts and photos from when your Dad was still alive, FHB.

That's all that matters. Closeness has no price, but such great value.

FHB said...

Sarge - I read those posts. My admiration for you has only grown with greater familiarity. I hope we can get together some day.

Mushy - You better dammit! I had her all set to make it a while back. You wait too long and you'll have to settle for my version.

Sully - You'd think folks would know by now. I'm not called the FHB for nothin'.

Old Soldier - I actually look fondly on those old hand crank days. Glad someone figured out how to attach a motor to it though. Sheesh!

David - Hey, it's great to hear from you man. Thanks. Yes, those are wonderful memories. I cherish all that time, and I'm glad I could share it with everyone.