Saturday Sandwiches

Dagwood Tower Sandwich On Glass Plate

Dad’s favorite foods are picnic foods and sub sandwiches. The menu includes macaroni and potato salad, corn on the cob, hotdogs, baked beans, chips and cookies. Every Friday night I make him beanie weenies, we have corn once a week and a variety of salads with lunch. About once a month we go out to lunch for subs. Interestingly, he no longer enjoys chili, hot peppers or anything spicy. I can remember walking into the living room when I was about eight years of age to see him sitting on the couch snacking on jalapeno peppers right out of the jar. As I sided up next to him, he said, These peppers are so hot! I asked him, Why don’t you stop eating them? Dad replied, They don’t get hot until I stop eating them. They are so hot I can’t stop.

A jar of jalapeno peppers was always on the table for Saturday lunch. On Saturday Mom would bring out the leftovers from the week and we would eat whatever was on the table. If there wasn’t quite enough Mom would cook up a little bacon. Sometimes Dad picked seasonal fresh pear tomatoes he grew in the side yard. I brought radishes (red and white), carrots and lettuce from my corner garden. I’m not sure exactly how it started, but I can hear my sister saying That’s gross, as Dad sliced hardboiled eggs and radishes and stacked them on top of white Wonder bread covered with barbecue beans. I placed a few slices of bacon on my bread and peanut butter. Dad winked and we just kept going. We started to combine anything we liked to eat onto our sandwiches. Sometimes we toasted the bread or added another slice of bread in the middle. I don’t know where we put all the food, but we ate everything on our plates. The messier the better.

We came up with some traditional combinations like creamy Limberger cheese and onions and added the liver too. Our bologna and mustard layers were usually topped off with potato chips. If there were leftover Bisquick biscuits, we used them instead of bread. There are many recipes that taste just as good cold as hot. Cold split pea soup with ham makes a great spread. Cold SOS is great with lettuce tomatoes and radishes. Who needs mayo when you have gravy? Grapes and onions stick to cream cheese. Macaroni, potato and egg salad are no brainers with sliced hot dogs. There was usually some canned Spam or corned beef and occasionally sardines. If Mom was making pickles, we added the pre-soaked Persian cucumber slices or the Butter Pickles. The more Mom and Sis fussed the more creative we were. Before we took our first bite, we carefully smashed the layers from the top down hoping to get a bite tasting of every flavor at once. We had so much fun.

Dad’s Dagwood inspired Saturday Sandwiches became a tradition. We eat much healthier these days, but when we have BLTs I always make them with peanut butter and Dad makes them with peanut butter and mayo. Dad is almost always willing to eat up leftovers so food doesn’t go to waste. Yesterday during his picnic food lunch he crumbled his chips onto his macaroni salad. I’m grateful he is a good eater. Tomorrow is Saturday. I think we will get out the Borgasmord.

An Alphabet Morning

Dad walked out of his bedroom this morning with an old brown leather address book in his hand and began to read it to me from the beginning. Yes, the letter A. With each name I asked him about the person listed. Several were woman that were described as “just a friend”. Which is understandable as Dad was married, divorced, widowed and dated during different times in his life. There was a man that went by the name “stick” because he was tall, and according to Dad, the nickname “stuck to stick”. A man that ran a tractor business, the local realtor, friends made through the radio club, tractor club, and his automobile restoration and antiques hobbies. We chuckled when we read names like “5 Star ED”.  

When Dad found the name of a close friend or family member, he read the address and birthdates, most of which have changed. A couple included short directions like “left 6 blocks then right” or “exit then stay for 2 miles”. Local phone numbers were written without the area code. Dad read the name of his sister, her birthdate and said, “in case you need it.” He remembered I had recently looked up her address. “Okay, now be really careful to keep this one”, Dad said, then laughed. It was his next-door neighbor and friend of 40 plus years.

When he made it to the letter L, Dad said, “We can do this til the cows come home. It goes all the way to the back still with numbers.” When he reached the letter N, Dad said, “It would be nice if I talked to some people once in a while.” Dad has outlived the majority of his friends. Knowing this he would occasionally say, “There’s not much use in this number.” Sometimes he would read a number as …3057 or 8. About one long-lost friend, Dad said, “We know where they are because of all the traffic noise.”  He remembered a few young friends like Gus and his brother. Gus was the little brother to a childhood friend of Dad’s that followed the bigger boys around. Dad said, “He cried a lot.” There were also quite a few names Dad could not recall. When he got to the letter T, Dad hopped up and went to get his teeth, which I had not yet noticed were missing.

As he continued to read, Dad mentioned “On this page there is an arrow going all the way to the next page.” While there was only one Barney, Bud, Doug, Dale, Gus, Macel, Meleese, Robin and Roger, there were half a dozen Bobs, several Joans, a few Johns, a couple Bettys and Maries, and the copious amount of Eds, Barbaras and Charles that run in our family. In some sections several generations of a family are listed. Dad thought the entry for his father at the family home was instead for himself. The entries traveled across the country through Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Utah and more. In the middle of the letter V Dad realized his untouched breakfast was cold and we stopped to warm it up.

The last entry in Dad’s book is my younger sister and her family. Like many names in his brown leather book, we lost her a few years ago to a complicated illness. Her birthday is in a few days. After Dad read all their names and birthdates, he asked, “Guess what?”  and without waiting for an answer said, “My book is empty from here on – two blank pages. That’s all there is of that.”

This alphabet morning, we found some of Dad’s life in his address book. Time was forgotten and people were remembered.

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The Beachcomber

Dad is barefoot wading in the water at our local beach. It is his newest favorite pastime in any weather to walk, collect rocks and shells, and watch the shorebirds and surfers. The other day he said, “Get your children and grandchildren down here on the beach. I wish I had gotten myself out there on those boards when I was a younger man.”

It hasn’t always been this way. In fact is has been a lifelong process. Dad has naturally been a fit muscular guy. He looked great without a shirt and in swim trunks which he wore without hesitation. Yet in our early teens my sister and I noticed he didn’t wear shorts. We talked with him about it and finally persuaded him to try the popular cutoff jeans around the house. He liked them and has worn shorts since the 1970s. But our job wasn’t finished. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that we convinced him to wear sports socks with his shorts. We reminded him how great his legs looked. Who knew it was that easy?

This past spring Dad arrived for an extended stay with us in southern California. During our regular walks on the beach he was always high on the dry sand wearing socks and shoes. Invariably he would get wet even though he tried not to. Then one day after watching us remove our shoes, he spontaneously took off his sneakers and socks and joined us along the waters edge. Now he loves it! Then another miracle happened. We bought him a pair of flip flops to wear with his shorts on the way to and from the beach. He loves them! We found a light weight pair with a soft toe insert and we stay nearby to avoid falls. But he really does great with them. It only took him until age 82.

We go to the beach every few days. If not he asks when we can “go to the water”. Dad fills his pockets with shells and rocks every beach walk. He displays them on trays and looks at his collection every day. If you visit us he will bring them out to show you. He has so many rocks we created an outdoor space for them in the garden. Dad especially enjoys the colored rocks and rocks with holes. He is particularly fond of a Chestnut Cowrie he found. We recently purchased a seashell identification guide for him.

Yesterday we packed our lunch and beach chairs and set ourselves right in the tide. He laughed as the water washed up around our feet. Then we watched the sanderlings scurry and the pelicans diving for fish. We combed the beach for shells and sand dollars. Dad has expressed many times how much he enjoys our time on the beach. We treasure it! But our work is not finished yet. We are still practicing knowing the difference between sand dollars and sea gull dollars.

Oops!

God Bless the Road Rebel

Dad has always been a “car guy”. Nearly every story he shares begins with a car, truck or tractor and then as the tale unfolds I learn about family history. During his teen years Dad and some of his friends started the Road Rebels club. The purpose of the club was to share a common interest and learn more about automobiles through hands-on experience. The father of one of the young men owned a garage where meetings were held. Dad enjoyed it so much he continued to wear his Road Rebels leather jacket for years afterward. One Sunday morning, as the story goes, the family was running late for church. As he ran out the door Dad grabbed his favorite jacket. Dad and mom settled into the last row pew just in time for the service to start. When it was time for the offering, the Deacon was short an usher and gave Dad a tap, asking him to help. Dad willing assisted in collecting the offering, moving row by row up the aisle to the front of the church for the blessing. As the congregation prayed over the collection, Mom looks up and sees in large white letters R O A D R E B E L S across Dad’s back. I never heard anything more about the jacket after that Sunday. Since then Dad has worked on many automobiles and enjoyed restorations. Industrial and truck engines became a significant part of his successful career. What I appreciate the most is that Dad taught me how to maintain my own car.

Dad is a NASCAR fan. Over the years I would often buy him tickets to races as birthday or Father’s Day gifts. He would always take Jim; his best friend of more than 40 years. They had a great time and every year gave me a detailed accounting of their day at the raceway. Lately, I have been recording the races for Dad to enjoy in shorter segments during the week since he doesn’t sit through a full-length race anymore. Dad loves it if someone watches the race with him so I sit nearby and get computer work done during the race. Imagine my surprise when I started a race for him today and he said, “This is the same one as yesterday.” I reminded him that yesterday we watched the end of a race in Atlanta and this race is in Miami. He said, “It can’t be. Its the same drivers in the same cars with the same numbers.” I wasn’t sure what to say and replied, “Yes Daddy, that’s how it works. There are quite a few races in a season.” Dad then inquired, “You mean all they do is drive around in circles for hours?” I said, “Yes Daddy.” Dad continues, “and they spin out and hit each other and roll over?” I nodded yes. Dad shakes his head and says, “That can’t be good for those drivers.” I said, “We hope they don’t have accidents but sometimes they do.” Dad jumps up and exclaims, “Stupidity!” Although still bewildered, my brain is finally catching up to the moment and now I’m trying not to laugh. I asked, “Who is your favorite driver?”, Dad says, “All my favorite drivers are dead.” I told Dad we could turn the race off if he didn’t want to watch it. He said, “I want to watch it. ” I asked him who he was rooting for and he said, “Jimmy Johnson”. Dad is enjoying the race and even laughing at a few comments by the announcers. I haven’t told Dad Jimmy Johnson is retiring this year. All I can say is, “God bless the Road Rebel!

Grand Canyon – Light and Laughter

Photo by Daughter

Dad and I went to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We went because he did not remember having been there and always wanted to go.  While we were waiting to check in to our cabin we decided to hike the Bright Angel Point Trail. The trail starts near the lodge and winds along sheer drop offs with dramatic views of the canyon. While we were hiking, Dad began to tell me how much he “hated this trail” sharing he hated it the entire time he helped build it. I was surprised but just listened. He explained that it was cold and snowing and he and all the workers feared they would slip and fall. I encouraged him to walk away from the edge and we continued along the trail. I asked him where he lived when he was working on the trail and he told me he drove to work from his home every day. He lives more than eight hours one-way from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. He also told me a good friend of his, one he worked with for years at his primary profession, quit after just one day. He was adamant about his experience, so I just hiked along with him in his moment. Along the way we stopped for a few sips of water under a shady rocky overhang.  At this same stop was a couple visiting from India. Dad told them in great detail how he built the trail sharing how the stones were placed along the edge and about the dangerous work. The couple listened to his story with interest and became excited to meet him. I just stood there quietly watching and listening. After all, my mission was to give Dad a happy visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We had a wonderful evening watching the light sweep across the canyon at sunset and a glass of wine with dinner. Our cabin was just 20 yards from the edge of the canyon. We slept peacefully under the pines with a fire in the stone hearth. We woke early to watch the sunrise and enjoy the changing hues as much as possible. Just one day – a few hours together as father and daughter to be remembered…or not. A few days after we returned home, Dad called me and said he needed to apologize. I said, “Dad, you never do anything you need to apologize for.” He said, “I never built a trail in the Grand Canyon.” I said, “well, there is a couple in India telling their friends they met a guy that did.” We laughed and laughed. Dad still remembers our trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Sometimes we look at the photographs together, talk about how beautiful it was, and laugh about our adventure.

Photo: National Park Service

“A short trail leads visitors from Grand Canyon Lodge to a viewing area at Bright Angel Point. Looking east, hikers can see Roaring Springs Canyon, a major tributary to Bright Angel Creek and the source of Roaring Springs. Deva, Brahma, and Zoroaster Temples are visible to the southeast. To the west is The Transept, a large tributary canyon of the Grand Canyon. The Colorado River, however, is hidden among the multicolored buttes and rock outcroppings that fill the Canyon’s depths. Along the trail are displays of marine fossils and crinoid fossils that illustrate the evolution of the landscape and life through the millennia as revealed in the exposed layers of the Canyon.”  Bright Angel Point