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July 13, 2007

There is a recipe at the end, and it is 100% calorie free because grief calories do not count.

Thank you so much for the kind notes and lovely comments, I read every last one and I do thank you. It makes me feel like there is hope for the world yet when so many people can love animals so purely. And now I do not feel so crazy for being this upset, which helps because I have indeed become certifiable, but more on that and a security guard later in this story.

Also, if you know me in person it would be a good idea to pretend you do not know anything that has transpired recently involving felines. Because the mere mention sends me into the ugly cry, the one where you hiccup tears. In fact, at the clinic on the night of Roy's passing, apparently I made such a scene you could hear me outside the closed door of the private room, and also outside the closed door into the lobby. And also possibly you could hear me in South Dakota.

I am not even going to lie to ya'll. I have been just tumped over.

On Wednesday after work I drove to the Ralph's grocery store on Ventura Boulevard to buy kitty grass and new toys for the furry threesome (and wine for me, truth be told). Finally I paid and took my buggy to the car and unloaded my groceries and returned the shopping cart back to the front of the store. Got in my Jeep and drove off.

Halfway home I reached over to get a Kleenex out of my purse and there was no purse.

There. Was. No. Purse.

As it turns out, I HAD LEFT MY HANDBAG IN THE GROCERY BASKET. At the store. In Los Angeles, California. With the following: My wallet, my money, my phone, my credit cards, my ipod, my work security badge, my insurance information, pretty much everything in the world including thirty-eleven nail files and a pack of gum. As ya'll may recall, I have a large handbag. Not the sort you accidentally LEAVE IN A GROCERY CART IN A PARKING LOT IN A BIG CITY.

I have never in my life done such a thing! Ya'll. I have lost my damn mind. I made a U-turn in the middle of A Major Valley Street and went back to the store now in full-on hysterics and the befuddled security guard was still holding my handbag, asking a manager and a clerk what to do with it. When I tried to explain that I am not normally this way, they all looked at me like I was both crazy and dumb as a rock. I am sure if you walk in today and ask about the slobbering fool who abandoned her own handbag in a brain fog they will even as we speak roll their eyes with disgust at my obvious idiocy.

I believe I'll patronize a different store for a while, maybe until I change my hair again or something.

Anyway. I've tried making jokes to myself about how Roy outlasted my marriage, or how he was the best conversationalist I knew... that guy could listen with both ears! But really it's all just falling a little flat. I hate being home and I hate being away. I don't know what to do with myself. I actually thought about even making a casserole because, well, I am Southern. We make casseroles when someone passes on. I think it's genetic, right next to the node of DNA that includes fried food and funny word-making-up-edness, such as tump.

I guess it seems weird to some people that I'm looking for something to laugh about, but another thing about being Southern is that we are always making jokes at funerals, or telling funny stories, or trying hard to find something redeeming in a situation. I remember when my Uncle Mouse passed on and it was a frightfully morose time and my Uncle Ronnel kind of saved us all without even knowing it simply by his rather unique fashion selections.

Now I love my Uncle Ronnel, he's a barrel-chested rancher and lives out on a huge ranch somewhere in the middle of Texas where you can drive all day and see nothing but deer and ducks. He's not the sort who spends his days in suits and ties, and we can only assume on Sundays he and the Lord tip hats privately, and one of those hats probably has a John Deere logo on it.

But when Uncle Mouse passed on the suits came out of the closet and so did the ties, for my Uncle Mouse was an amazing guy, pillar of the community, had built his business from the ground up with his unique blend of people skills, humor and excellent sandwiches. I think all of Longview, Texas and three surrounding counties turned out to pay respects and as such, my Uncle Ronnel came in from the ranch and wore a tie of Texan proportions to the funeral home for the viewing. Rather than letting the grief of the whole evening overtake me, I made sure to make many fine references to his tie throughout the night.

It was a piece of art, really. A large, wide swath of green silk with a marsh of ducks stitched on its surface, and seven shiny mallards were flying up toward the neck knot while a bird dog IN FULL POINT was prominently embroidered at the bottom.

It was an astounding tie. Did I mention it had a five-inch BIRD DOG IN FULL POINT embroidered on the bottom?

Looking back I silently bless and love my Uncle Ronnel even more for wearing that damn tie, so I could have something to fixate on. I sidled up to him in the kitchen area of the funeral home as he was pouring coffee. "Uncle Ronnel, that is the finest tie I have ever laid eyes on," I told him. "You suppose if you bend down a little the dog might finally catch himself a mallard?" He got me in a neck lock and we laughed, breaking the tension.

Later I stood close to my daddy. I slipped my arm through his linking us up by the elbows, which is my favorite way to stand next to a person you love. My dad was having a particularly tough time at the funeral home that night, he and Uncle Mouse had been closer than anyone.

I leaned in and asked him in quiet and morose tones, "Daddy, are you sad right now because Uncle Ronnel won't give you his tie?" He had not expected that question, and his smile and laugh were a happy surprise.

So I am trying to find things to laugh about but I am just morose and gloomy. I think I will bake a casserole after all. When jokes don't work there is nothing better than a pan of green bean casserole.

My Green Bean Casserole Recipe

Ingredients:

1 can (14 1/2 ounce) French-cut green beans

2 cans (14 1/2 ounce) French-cut green beans with NO SALT ADDED

(NOTE: There is a lot of salt in the cheese and onions and soup, but if you like super salty foods, change this to one can no-salt beans, two cans regular. Anyway, you need three cans of green beans.)

About 1 1/4 cups shredded cheese (I use 1 bag of pre-shredded cheddar cheese, the 6 oz. our 8 oz. is fine.)

1 BIG can of French's Fried onions (they come in a small size and a big size, use the one that is 6 oz.)

2 cans of the 10 3/4 oz. size Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup (some people use cream of mushroom but I don't like mushrooms and besides, I think cream of chicken gives this dish a better flavor)

** Note, also I am giving this recipe mostly from memory so I don't know if you need two whole cans of soup, but just get everything moistened and mixed in.

Dash of worstershire sauce

Black pepper to taste (or a dash of cayenne, if you like spicy)


Directions:

Drain the green beans. In a big bowl, combine beans, shredded cheese, and both cans of soup. Add a dash or two of worstershire sauce and a sprinkle of pepper to taste. Mix together pretty well with a big spoon.

Then to this mix, ad HALF the can of French's fried onions. Yes, into the mix. Trust me. Mix it all in just so the onions are evenly distributed. Put this whole mess into a baking pan, I like using those disposable aluminum pans because I am lazy.

Bake in your oven on medium heat (about 350 F) for about 15-20 minutes or until warmed through, cheese melts and everything is bubbly.

Take it out of the oven and re-stir everything really well, then add the rest of the French's fried onions over the whole top (ok, this is basically a Fried Onion casserole. You gotta like 'em or this will do nothing for you and your grief.) Don't stir them in, just leave them on top as a crunchy top-coat.

Put the casserole back in until the top is browned and golden.

I like to serve this with chicken and biscuits. And wine. Tonight I am skipping the chicken and biscuits and going for extra servings of wine and casserole, because I am classy that way.

Thank you all again for your kindness. I was fully unprepared for how badly I would handle this event. I never realized how much of my love and affection I channeled into that animal after my divorce. He needed me, and I adored him, and that was a pretty great thing in my book. I knew he was going to pass on one day and thought I was prepared but clearly I delusional. (See: handbag.)

The other cats were also unprepared for me following them around the house and picking them up and making them swear solemnly not to ever get sick or die and they are kind of annoyed with all of that, but they like the two new cat scratchers, cat grass, new toys and the catnip which I have made sure they are enjoying pretty much all the time, except of course when I am trying to get them to put their paw prints on legal documents declaring their intended longevity.

I am so grateful to you all for sharing your heart with me and your sympathy and your stories, too. I love you for it.

Posted by laurie at July 13, 2007 8:42 AM