Sunday, December 1, 2013

Love, Loss, and Comfort Food

My sister Cathy lost her battle with Pancreatic Cancer on November 12, 2013. Pretty cool date to go in my book. I was not there at her bedside, but her family was, along with my mom, brother and her chosen sister was there. I consider Sandy, our sister-in-law, a gift that I gave my brother and sister. After all, it was my constant nudging to date my younger brother that helped get them together, eventually married and parents to two young, smart, and challenging girls.

Cathy and I were both okay with me not coming back to see her again before she passed. I'd known when I'd seen her in May that I would not see her alive again. But you cannot tell a cancer patient that you do not think they will make it. The pathetic excuse for doctors at Kaiser had missed her cancer for 18 months and when it was finally found it was inoperable. (Long story there that I won't delve into now). And I could just tell, no matter how good she may have looked or felt that it was too far gone at that point.

A big reason for me to not be at her side is that I know how to override morphine pumps. We did not know at the time that she wouldn't be on a pump but would be on oral meds at the end. Another reason is that I am a fierce patient advocate and would have caused her family undue stress if I perceived any lack in her's just my nature. I have a friend who refers to me as a "force of nature", this is not a bad thing, but it is a very accurate assessment.

My brother-in-law did an AMAZING job taking care of her until the very end. It is not fair that he should lose the mother of his children, the woman who taught him to love again (he lost his first wife unexpectedly), and his partner in life so young. He held it together well at her Celebration of Life, but wondered why I didn't shed a tear.

Truth be told, I've been walking with death for too long now and have become numb to it. I've almost lost my husband several times, and the fact that he is still alive and functioning baffles his doctor. I know she's in a better place, pain free and enjoying herself with all of the other people and critters I love that have passed on.

I stayed to spend Thanksgiving with my family. One of my stress relievers is baking, and with the cookbook due to be formatted any day now, I did a lot of baking while there. I made Satan Muffins (a.k.a. Snickerdoodle Muffins) for breakfast, not realizing my sister-in-law had NEVER had them before. I don't know how that happened as these were one of my favorite things to eat after a night of unbridled drinking during our college days.

I asked everyone if they wanted anything special. My brother asked for just two things: banana cream pie and Charlie Brown's Brownies.  I'm not a banana cream pie fan, but I did find a recipe (which of course I had to tweak a bit) and made him banana cream pie from scratch. I hear it tasted wonderful.

The Charlie Brown's Brownies took a bit to find. The recipe was in a Peanuts Cookbook put out by Charles Schultz in 1969. Cathy and I had both been given the book by Maga and Grandad (our mom's parents) that Christmas.  Luckily for me, there are other fans of that cookbook who've posted the recipe on the internet. The first batch came out as blondies, which my middle nephew loved, the second batch was perfect.

Brownies are one of my comfort foods, Banana Cream Pie is one of my brother's. My sister was a social butterfly and had started several traditions for her cul-de-sac family. The neighbors get together often for Drinks-on-the-Court and one tradition is to have a second "dessert" for Thanksgiving at someone's house. So I took requests and started baking. In the end, I had made 2 banana cream pies, a batch of Devil Truffles, Peanut Butter Chocolate cookies, Pumpkin Cake, real whipped cream, Charlie Brown's Brownies, accidental Blondies, Snickerdoodles, and I'm sure I'm forgetting something else.

It is no surprise that my sister's cul-de-sac is named Corazon...Spanish for heart. She was well loved by many and will be missed...even if I never shed a tear at her passing.