Listening to every heart
It reminded me of one of those stories one marries into.
Oh, those stories.
Those are totally different stories…
My first father-in-law was known by and large as “Blondie”. Seems he didn’t like his first name, Roland. His middle name, Archibald, well…that didn’t suit him either. He was a short, genial gnome of a guy, and a wonderful grandpa to his 12 grandchildren from three of his six kids. His newly married son who took me as a wife wouldn’t give him his 13th grandchild for a couple of years.
As I recall, it was just before I was pregnant that I learned of his penchant for fried brains. Now, this “city” girl had moved from California to Illinois. Oh, I had lived “in the country” a couple of times, not nearly long enough, and so I really wasn’t a “big city” gal, nor a country gal, but our town was about the size [by the time I left] of the town my ex moved me to, and my first taste of real Midwestern life was not nearly like what I had experienced when my mom and dad had taken me to South Dakota, dad’s stomping grounds.
No, this little town was a few miles south of Chicago, but had very distinct feelings about “outsiders”. Quite frankly? I never felt welcome, outside of the in-laws. And even though the family had lived there for a couple of decades, they were “outsiders” too, having moved in from other areas. I won’t name the town. It’s bad enough that I had to live there as long as I did.
Anyway, back to Blondie. He was quite the character. We’d all be at the dinner table and some of us had enough on the first helpings of whatever great meal Mom had fixed. Some even went back for seconds. Blondie, however, he would keep eating until every bowl or plate was cleaned off. Literally. Mom would gripe about how he ate too much. I suggested once that I’d bet he would quit eating if she removed the plates and bowls. She looked at me as if I were crazy. But she tried it. And he never noticed. He even lost weight after that!
Back to the fried brains. Now, I knew where this delicacy came from, and the best of them came from a good old pig. Blondie always said cows thought to much while they chewed their cud, so their brains were a bit more tough. He liked his brains fried, as I mentioned above, and it always resembled a pinkish sort of scrambled eggs that had been breaded before frying. My first thought was, “I don’t know….” and then the encouragement would begin, so I tried. With enough salt and pepper, anything is palatable…
But it was after I was pregnant that I could actually handle the brains and prepare them, so Blondie made sure that every Sunday morning, we were invited to breakfast, so I could help Mom and take over the fried brains department. He thought he was being kind and said I had a good handle on just when to turn them. What he didn’t realize, was, that hurt Mom’s feelings. But he never noticed, and just kept on eating those fried brains.
It was before the baby was born that Mom and Dad moved to Florida for their health. They promised to come back up after their 13th grandchild was born. And they did, when she was six months old. It was June, and I hadn’t fixed brains since they had moved away. We lived in their house, as a rental, so I went and made sure we had enough pints of brains for when they arrived the coming weekend. As I handled them in the supermarket, I felt a bit squeamish.
And when they arrived, and Mom and I started breakfast that Sunday, I learned I couldn’t handle the fixing of brains. Strange that I could before I had the baby, but not now. Maybe that was a good thing, as Mom took over, and fixed them for Dad, and handled them “just so”, and he was quite happy.
Which was a good thing, because two days later, he died. It was quick and the family all flocked in even faster. Brothers and sisters and cousins and grandchildren filled the small house, and I found it very strange that my ex and I were supposed to feed and house them all with no help, pocket-book wise. Arrangements were made even quicker, as I remember, and there would be two funeral services. One there, where they had lived for a couple of decades, and then the funeral service in Florida, where they had started their “new” lives.
As quickly as the house had filled up, after the service, it was quietly empty. All of the brothers, sisters, and assorted family members left for Florida. I was left behind with the baby, and a house full of fragrant funeral flowers, as Mom asked that I keep them alive as long as possible.
When I went to the refrigerator later that night, in it was one left-over pint of pig brains that no one had bothered to prepare. For some reason, I couldn’t seem to pitch them out. So, I held my queasy thoughts steady, fixed them, and ate dinner in his honor, with thoughts about the number 13, and Dad’s joy in welcoming at least one more grandchild into his life.