When the temperature starts to drop and the leaves begin to change, I start craving Grandma Charlotte’s pork chops with dressing.
I grew up eating those pork chops, but the time I remember most is the night soon after our wedding when Grandpa Ed and Grandma Charlotte invited Tim and me for dinner. It was mid-October and we had just returned from our honeymoon. This was our first dinner at someone else’s home as a married couple and we felt strangely grown-up. Grandma made pork chops with dressing, roasted butternut squash, and popovers with cinnamon and honey butter.
We reminisced about the wedding and told them about our adventures in Vancouver and Victoria. Without even being aware we were doing so, Tim and I watched how they interacted, how Grandma made sure Grandpa had enough to eat, how Grandpa thanked her afterward. How Grandma looked on, smiling, while Grandpa told his stories and jokes.
I think about that night as I bundle up in a sweater and take “Mom’s Blue Book” off the shelf. Aunt Cheryl helped Grandma put together this collection of her favorite recipes, and the cover features a photo of Grandma happily baking away.
It’s bittersweet, this photo. In it, Grandma has taken a break from putting cinnamon candy noses on the reindeer cookies to pose, smiling, for the camera. But when you look closer, you see that some of the noses have ended up on the antlers. Which was something my precise, organized, mother-of-eight grandmother would never normally do.
The dementia crept in like that. Little things like getting birthdays wrong that led to big things like showing up for Easter dinner at four in the morning. And all the while all of us dreading the day we knew was coming, the day when she’d look at us and have no idea who we were.
You can’t imagine how you’ll cope with that. But somehow you do. And you start taking your moments where you can find them. Like the time we visited Grandma and got out a box full of doll clothes she had made. She didn’t remember making the dresses, but she knew they were exquisite. “I made this?” she said, fingering the cloth gently. “Yes, Grandma. Isn’t it beautiful?” She nodded, trying to conjure up a memory.
Seventeen years have passed since that autumn evening with my new husband and my grandparents. Last week, our extended family gathered for the wedding of one of the cousins. We sat under the outstretched branches of a beautiful white oak in the fading light of a blessedly warm evening.
When the minister asked us to remember the ones we love who are no longer with us, I pictured our thoughts dancing gently heavenward, full of thankfulness for all they taught us about life and love and commitment and faith.
Here we are, getting married, raising our children, never forgetting.
Grandma Charlotte’s Pork Chops with Dressing
Brown 8 pork chops and place in baking pan.
6 cups bread cubes
4 TBSP. chopped onion
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning or sage
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup water
Mound the dressing onto the chops.
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup water
Pour soup mixture over dressing and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.