I'm seventy-three! the patriarch proudly exclaimed. I think this end of his tally has finally offered him time to enjoy himself with a relaxed sense of purpose. Retirement suits him - for the first time, he's discovered he can say "no" if he doesn't want to be somewhere or do something. True to form however, Grandpa rarely says no. Our garden is a testament to his generosity with his time.
Two birthdays last week, Grandpa and Edie & Ira's cousin Aaron who is rocketing through his early teens. Seems like he's been a teenager for years, but it turns out he's only been there for a year now. In this family it's always the choice of the birthday boy or girl to set the menu for the inevitable family dinner. Last Monday we went for it with the all the family favourites from my childhood. Grandma's meatloaf, potatoes au gratin, other stuff involving leaves and finished with Grandpa's all time number one - Pineapple upside-down cake. By special permission, I've included Grandma's meatloaf recipe at the end of the post.
Birthdays aside, it's been a crazy few weeks. Ira's syndactyly release was three weeks ago and his casts finally came off this week. To give you the quick 20, Aperts kids always have webbed fingers and toes, called Syndactyly. The severity of the webbing can vary from extra skin between the digits to "mitten fingers" where the bones are fused together inside what look, obviously, like mittens. Ira has the latter, so it was a tricky operation lasting about six hours to release the bones of his index and pinky fingers and graft skin from his groin between each. They have to do this procedure in two steps - three months from now he'll have the middle digits separated and potentially his toes also.
Unfortunately over the weekend the casts around his hands began to pong. On Saturday it was a bit like clam chowder, but by Sunday, more like lobster bisque - but not in a pleasant way. Monday it was just rank, so I took him in to get the bandages around the fingers changed. Lucky save it turns out - the gauze packed between his fingers had slipped away and the grafts were at risk. The fine folks in the fracture clinic had his casts off in minutes and our orthopedic surgeon was through the door. It was as if somebody had hit the panic button - everyone dropped what they were doing and can running - full court press. After a clean-up, things were looking a lot better and our surgeon was happy to have new casts put on.
With those casts now off, it's up to us to change his bandages and pack between his fingers with gauze too keep the grafts from sticking together. To date we've coped with inserting feeding tubes down his throat, suctioning nasal stents and squeezing salve on his eyes to keep them moist - he sleeps with his eyes open a lot due to shallow eye sockets - but this is the first time we've needed to attend to open wounds. The packing between his fingers is fiddly and frustrating, especially when he's crying and frustrated, mostly due to our learner's chops in home healthcare.
Well, he's coping, so that's a blessing. The gardens are looking good thanks to grandpa. Edie is keeping us all busy with constant stories and the unique perspectives on things that only a two year old can - she came with me to the market gardens this morning and was most instructional on what to get: grapes, grapes and grapes. Wouldn't eat the dim sim but.
It's been raining a bit, and I picked up some choice lamb shanks at the market, so they've been braising all afternoon. Think I'll turn them out with puy lentils, whipped potatoes and green beans. If it works out, I'll post the procedure next week. Speaking of savouries:
Jude's All Time Best Meatloaf Ever, and that's no lie
1 packet onion soup
1/4c rolled oats (best to use instant porridge style)
big glug or two of ketchup
heavy splash of Worchestershire sauce
about 1T mustard (Dijon or American or whatever you have handy)
salt/pepper to taste
500g ground beef
Mix all except beef and breadcrumbs into a loose paste. Run ground beef in with your hands. When thoroughly combined, massage into a loaf-shape and place on a roasting dish or skillet. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and jam in a medium oven (180C/350f) for about 45 mins.
Let it rest for at least ten minutes before slicing or you may find it crumbles before reaching the plate. Serve with whatever you feel like and any leftovers make equally rewarding sandwiches.
Until next time.