Grandparents are a blessing.
Being able to know and love all four of my grandparents has been a blessing…But it makes losing them harder as well. Just weeks before my 18th birthday and my move down to college, my maternal grandmother passed away after a long battle with cancer. Since then, I’ve learned that the sadness goes away, but missing them never really fades.
At least four times per year, we gather at my paternal grandparents’ house in Marin County to celebrate birthdays and holidays. Most summers, the whole family (all 16+ of us) go camping in Burney Falls, Hat Creek, or Bodega Bay. When we arrive at my grandparents’ house, my grandma is always there to greet us with cheese and crackers (if it’s the afternoon) or coffee cake (if it’s the morning), and my grandpa is always there to chow down with us.
Over 70 Octobers ago, my Papa was hit by a car. As the story was reported and often retold, he was near death and as a result, his leg was amputated. One of my favorite (and most twisted) memories as a kid is hanging out in my grandparents walk-in closet and making my 5 boy cousins play dress up — the highlight? Playing with Papa’s alternate prosthetic leg, which sat right next to all his shoes.
This October, my Papa had another near death experience. But at age 86, his body wasn’t as capable of recovering. And early Thursday morning, my family had to make the difficult decision that everyone dreads making…they took away his pain.
I spent all day yesterday with my grandma, dad, aunt, uncle and cousins. We laughed, we cried, we planned. We watched the Giants win and couldn’t help but think that my Papa must have had something to do with it. He did root on their win the day before from his hospital bed, after all.
But most importantly, we remembered.
(Why no, no I did not know how to smile properly for family photos.)
When I think back to my favorite memories with my Papa, 3 things come to mind:
1) Him teaching me to drive in the parking lot of the high school my dad attended right after I got my Learners Permit. Papa had tons of patience. He was a patient man in general, and had a kind heart. (His entire career was spent working for the YMCA, where he mainly served others.) And he had some balls…I really wasn’t that great of a driver.
2) Celebrating my college graduation in Santa Barbara on the same day as his 84th birthday. We were all so caught up in the craziness of my graduation that we didn’t even remember to tell him happy birthday until after the ceremony was over. He didn’t once complain that I stole the spotlight. He only told me how proud of me he was, and how happy he was that they got to be there.
3) Eating together. Always eating, always enjoying time with the family. Also…drinking.
In honor of that 3rd one (you know, about the food), I’d like to share the recipe for what I made at my grandparents’ house yesterday.
In our time of struggle, I didn’t really know what to do besides make food. I brought snacks and homemade pumpkin puree, and decided I’d bake something for the inevitable slough of guests who would be coming through the house I consider one of my second homes.
So I made pumpkin bread. With chocolate chips.
And for a second, everything felt better.
You don’t have to wait till your grandpa dies to make this pumpkin bread…In fact, you should bake it and bring it to him today. Then go into his closet and play with his fake leg.
….Or not. Maybe that’s just a me thing.
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
makes 2 loaves
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oats (I thought considering the circumstances I’d make these a little heart healthy :))
1/2 heaping tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 heaping teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 heaping teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Notes: This was adapted from Two Peas and their Pod, whose recipe yielded 3 loaves. Hence the weird measurements and “heaping” half tablespoons.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In one bowl, mix together dry ingredients: flour, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In another (larger) bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients (except chocolate chips). This is easily done with a whisk…No hand mixer needed, just some elbow grease.
Slowly add in the dry ingredients, making sure everything is incorporated with a fork or spatula. If you wish to add chocolate chips, now is the time! (I made one loaf with and one loaf without) Toss the chocolate chips in a small amount of flour (it helps them not sink to the bottom) and fold the chocolate chips into the batter.
Spray two 9×5 inch loaf pans with cooking spray, and evenly divide the batter between them. Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Start checking them after 45 minutes.
When still warm, plop the loaves out of the pans to release them, then put them back in. Wait until they cool down a bit before slicing and serving!
The real question now is, who’s going to finish this puzzle that Papa left behind for us?
In true Papa fashion, he started a puzzle by doing all the easy parts himself and left us the hard parts!
Thanks for all the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram lovin’ yesterday, friends. Enjoy your weekend.