The petite woman knocking gently on the door of ER bay 17 last Wednesday opened it slightly and poked her head through. “May I come in?” she said softly. Everyone else had rapped loudly and bustled in and out. I nodded and moved to make room for her near the gurney where my father lay. The woman introduced herself as one of the chaplains on duty for the hospital that day.
She and I chatted a couple of minutes. I told her the short version of my dad’s mishap: a valet opened my dad’s passenger door at the entrance of the adjacent outpatient building, and he had stepped out of my car only to drop like a rock onto the pavement. He took a hard blow to the head that split open his eyebrow. It had bled an astonishing amount. One of his knees was scraped raw, and how he managed to do that without tearing his pants was beyond me.
Would you say a prayer for us, Chaplain, I asked. “That’s up to him,” she said, nodding in my father’s direction. Dad was prone and silent under a thin, cotton blanket, while the electronic monitors he was hooked to blinked a steady neon green. I looked at him dubiously, a man who had avoided religion religiously for most of his adult life. Now he suffers from Alzheimer’s, and we don’t live in the same decade anymore.
I moved to his right side and leaned over where he could see me, constrained as he was by the cervical collar that the ER doctor had placed on him as a precaution.
Dad, I said, would you like to have the chaplain say a prayer over you? His one good eye opened, and its blue iris regarded me for several moments. The lid of his other eye was swelling shut, the brow sporting a purple goose egg that grew by the minute.
I smiled encouragingly.
“Who are you?” my dad said, coolly.
We didn’t get a prayer that day, at least not by the chaplain. She was called away soon after by another emergency worse than ours. Hours later, after many tests revealed no broken bones or brain bleed, my dad received his discharge papers. I drove him back to the assisted living facility that is his home, and we walked slowly, so slowly, from the parking lot to inside, me with his arm in a firm grip to keep him from falling again, he gripping mine because that’s what gentlemen do. He was given a hero’s welcome by staff, and he responded with delight and kisses for the people who care for him daily and who are like family to him now.
It was bittersweet to watch, but I don’t begrudge him for it. Love is love.
Meyer Lemon Curd, recipe adapted from one in Joy the Baker Cookbook, by Joy Wilson, © Joy Wilson, published 2012 by Hyperion of New York, NY.
Lemon curd is a delicious jumble of contradictions: sweet and sour, creamy and tart, toast topper and cake filling. My mother made it periodically when I was a child, and I always loved its puckery sweetness. My grocery store offered Meyer lemons for sale last week, and I snagged a bag for this. Equal amounts of regular lemons can be substituted, with fine results.
5 Meyer lemons, zested, divided use. Set aside 1 1/2 tablespoons of zest for this recipe, and save the rest for a batch of scones.
1/2 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (Zest the whole fruit first, then squeeze for juice.)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
Big pinch of fine-grained sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
In the top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water (or a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of the same), combine the lemon juice, sugar, eggs, yolks, and salt. Whisk continuously as the mixture warms and thickens. The process will take just a few minutes. Remove from heat when the curd reaches 170°F.
Stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons of zest and the butter. Whisk until thoroughly combined, then pour into a clean jar and refrigerate, partially covered, until completely cold. Seal with a lid, and keep refrigerated. Enjoy within 4 days.