|Berkley and Quincey|
“I’m mashing wiff my cousin….” They sang together, some unidentifiable melody, their little arms pumping away with their potato mashers, soft ripe bananas giving way under their throbbing pulses. Three-year-old Qunicey and her four-year-old cousin, Berkley knelt on the black stools at my kitchen island. I watched from the other side, reaching over occasionally to keep their bowls from sliding out from under them. We mashed and measured and mixed, their little chef hats flopped to the side of their heads, their giggles floating up above us as we worked. We have done this before, and they know just how this goes.
Quincey lives in the East Wing, which is really Auntie Libby’s house just to the east of us. We live in the West Wing. She has her own little bed up there with her mommy and daddy and baby brother, Jonah. They are there while Mommy and Daddy work on remodeling the house they bought in Salt Lake City. Berkley and her brother Sydney are here visiting with their parents, Adrian and TJ. They are here with Auntie Heather and Amy and Auntie Terry and others , who are here because PopPop is here. PopPop is their grandpa, Dennis Riggs. And Dennis is our friend. (That sort of felt like one of those “who begat” chapters in the Old Testament.)
Dennis has been trying the last number of weeks to get out of here. “Here” being earth life. His spirit, strong and willful and tender and wise, has outlived his body. His kidney, donated lovingly years ago by his little sister Terry, had filled the measure of its creation, twice. And because the kidney was done, so was the rest of him. And since his body was being stubborn about the exit plan, Denny came up here to Farmington from his home in Orem, cuz we have a gang of people who wanted to be able to give the care any good father should have while his children have to go to work. My sisters Libby and Sherry, and hospice, make for a loving recipe.
This morning Quincey and Berkley, a bit wiggly for the goings on in the east wing, skipped across the yard and down the driveway so we could make banana bread.
Just when we were adding the smashed fruit to our butter and sugar, the phone rang. Because there was a pause before anyone spoke, and because the caller ID had told me it was Libby, I got an instant twist in my tummy.
“He did it.” She struggled to get the words out, partly because she is sick and her vocal cords aren’t cooperative, and partly because those words are hard to say. I knew what she meant, and I stood there with the phone to my ear, my chest rising and falling, watching PopPop’s two little loves giggle with each other. I hung up and tipped my head toward my heart, asking for direction regarding these little girls and how we should help them know what just happened. Dennis had made the leap! Two days ago, when I had asked how he was feeling, he pursed his forehead and whispered, “Desperate.”. I told him maybe he could try another strategy and just sort of fall back into it instead of pushing forward. I’m not sure what method finally worked, but I do know it was courageous. And I also know he had unfailing faith in the divinity of his God.
Here in my kitchen this afternoon we who were baking left our mixing, removed our hats, and we talked. “Why is PopPop going to be with Jesus?” they asked in a matter of fact way. We talked about his body, and his spirit. I don’t recall the exact words, and I knew it wasn’t really my place to explain my own beliefs to children who are not mine, so I didn’t overdo it And yet, it felt like water wanted to flow in that direction, and trying to divert it would be not only futile but unwise. And so our conversation rolled out as naturally as the ingredients in our recipe, so that when they each took one of my hands and we walked back up the driveway it was not frightening. Dennis lay still and peaceful, the loves of his life gathered around him, except for Tim who was working in New York. Tender hearted Sydney stood at the head of the bed, his silkened head leaning on his father’s side, his seven-year-old tears dropping onto Pop Pop’s bed. It was a sacred moment in a holy place.
After hugs and kisses and whispers and tears, I took the girls’ hands once again and they skipped back down the driveway. My sluggish feet could not keep up with them and their hands broke from mine as they raced into the house. I thought about how our journeys vary, how delightful it was to skip once upon a time, and how slowly we wind up moving when so much road has passed under our feet.
When our banana bread was cooked, the girls carried loaves up to the east wing in bags. They got a little smashed. But the Shiva keepers up there didn’t mind. They broke it off a chunk at a time. Someone sent Sydney upstairs for a cube of butter. and again ten minutes later for a second cube when the first one was gone. Hot bread and cold butter. Our kind of Toast . We raise our warm bread topped with chunks of good cold butter to you, Dennis Riggs. Fare well, dear man.
¾ c butter
3 c sugar
6 large smashed bananas
½ t salt
4 ½ c flour
3 T soda
8-12 oz sour cream
2 t vanilla
Mix softened butter and sugar. Add eggs. Mix dry ingredients together and add to butter mix. Add bananas and vanilla. Mix in sour cream. Add nuts if desired. (I add nuts to one pan) and bake at 335 for one hour. Grease pans but do not flour. This recipe fills two long sweet bread pans and one small one. Only fill bread pan about half full with batter.