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How Time Passes

March 11, 2005

Well, I listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Seems the whole crew is taking a break and I'm glad for them. Everyone needs a break now and then, and so we had a repeat show from last year around this time, a Hot Springs, Arkansas show. It was appropriate because I managed to work things around the house so I could listen again from the tub. I was feeling a bit off and wouldn't you know it was the first stages of some kind of flu, which has kept me laying low for several days now.

There's something about being sick that kind of releases you from the grip of the world. You have a ready excuse to pass on invitations for coffee and you don't HAVE to answer the door when the Girl Scouts show up. You can lay your body down with a blanket and something hot in a mug and let things happen around you for a while. You can ask for things like chicken broth or the remote. You can moan.

Not to say I was bedridden all week. I have a philosophy about sickness, that it will get you down to the degree to which you LET it get you down, so I pretty much did the usual, though I had to cancel on my community service time on Wednesday at the nursing home. Mr. Sundberg brought me some medicine and one of the pleasant side effects is a little boost of energy. So even though I didn't make it to Eleanor Farburg's funeral on Tuesday, I did send along a carrot cake for the luncheon afterward. With homemade cream cheese frosting.

Hard to imagine she's gone. Eleanor has been here since she was born, way back around Depression times, and she had what some might call the misfortune of outliving all her friends. We all knew her because she made it her business to know all of us, and I'll be darned if that woman ever threw away anything. I recall a Saturday at her house a few years back when a few women in the neighborhood made sausage, mixing it up in big metal tubs and filling the pig intestines she got from Larry Johnson and tying them off with string from a huge spool that must have been decades old. After we cleaned up Eleanor served up a spread I'll not soon forget. Of course she fried up some of the sausage we'd made, so we might test it and feel good about the day. There were pickled beets and homemade rolls, cabbage slaw and sweet pickles and side pork and potato salad and beans and that molded Jell-O salad with the mayonnaise blended in. She had some chicken wings going in the slow cooker and a plate of date bars and apple bars and pumpkin bars. A bowl of pickled herring and a casserole filled with sliced potatoes and cheddar cheese, with a handful of smashed potato chips sprinkled over the top. She got out some beer, too, and we sat there in her kitchen for a good hour or more, laughing and gossiping and drinking right out of the bottle. Then she brought out the carrot cake, five layers high on a cake plate, dripping with the thickest cream cheese frosting you might imagine. "Here's one of the three reasons I've managed to live so long," she said, and cut each of us a slab, much too big, we protested, but there were not even crumbs left when we got up to leave." I asked her about the other two reasons she'd had a long life and she smiled and held up a bottle of beer. "Here's one. Good for the spirit. The cake's for the body. As for the mind? Well, there's nothing like a good long walk."

Since then, I've made a point to take a walk now and then. I went last night, just after dark. It was mighty cold and since it snowed all week I wore boots and a parka. I thought a lot about Eleanor and the space she left behind, and all the people I've loved who have died over the years. I thought about how Mr. Keillor talks about when he was a child, and how time passes. When I got home everyone was asleep. I got out a beer and the recipe box, and just after midnight the buzzer rang and the carrot cake was done. So I'm feeling better today and looking forward to this week's show. I'm thinking the kids have never had side pork or pickled beets. Maybe I ought to pick up a few groceries in the morning.

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