I’ve been thinking a lot during the past few days about gifts I’d like to give my Dad for Father’s Day.
He’s 99 years old, soon to be 100, and it’s not easy to come up with something he wants or can use.
Candy is a safe bet; he’s always had a sweet tooth and loves chocolates, but his digestion isn’t what it used to be and I’ve been advised by his care givers to take it easy on the sweets.
If I buy him a box of chocolates, however, I know he’ll give most of it away to the people who take such kind, loving care of him every day, so it’s probably all right.
There are other, more important things that I wish I could give him though, if wishing could make it happen.
I’d love to give him back his vigor, his energy, his eagerness to go fishing, or shrimping, or crabbing, even geoduck digging. (That’s pronounced gooey-duck, for off-islanders who may be reading this, and it’s a giant clam).
He was a master ‘duck digger and relished the challenge of getting those giant clams out of the sand during good ‘duck digging tides like the ones we’ve just had, which is why these memories are much with me now. He taught me everything I know about digging those ‘ducks, and I’d love, one more time, to go geoduck digging with Dad.
I also wish I could give him back his walk. How that man could walk.
With his long legs and lanky frame, he strode along as if reaching his destination quickly was the most important thing he was doing that day. No strolling for my Dad.
For about a year and a half, we both worked in downtown Chicago, a few blocks from each other. We’d take the morning commuter train from Evanston into Chicago and then head from the train station to our respective buildings. I’ll remember those walks and striding along beside my Dad, intent upon keeping up with him, until my memory fails me, as his now often does.
A fall and a broken hip robbed him of his distinctive walk; I’d give it back to him if it were in my power, so I could jog along beside him, just once more.
Most of all, however, I wish I could give my Dad the one thing I know would make him happier than anything else, the one thing that could bring back that gleam in his eye and make him forget that he’s old and feeble now.
I wish I had the power to give him back my Mom, Joetta, the love of his life for more than 70 years. There is not a day he doesn’t miss her, look for her, ask about her, only to be reminded that she left us almost three years ago. He knows it, but still can’t accept it, and if I could give him back even one more day with Jo, he would have the Father’s Day gift of all time.
But, wishing can’t make it happen. I’ll take him the chocolates, and probably a new warm shirt or sweater, and we’ll spend some time trying to talk about things that might pique his interest, but it’s hard.
There are so many things I want to say to him, so many things I wish I could give him for Father’s Day, but when he looks into my eyes, with the soft, warm smile that has never changed, and says, “Gee, it’s nice to have you here, Margy,” I understand that he knows how much I’d give him for Father’s Day, if only I could.
I’ll also take Dad a half dozen fresh oysters (more would upset the digestive apple cart), which I’ll open and give him on the half shell, and a dozen or so Hood Canal shrimp, cooked in our family “hot boil” manner, and something sweet for that sweet tooth.
If there was any one dessert that was my Dad’s all-time favorite, it was lemon meringue pie. Since she made it for him on a regular basis for more than 70 years, my Mom had perfected that pie, just for him. I’ve never come close to matching hers, and it doesn’t travel well, so I’ll make these lemon poppy seed cookies to take to him.
Won’t be the same, but I know he’ll enjoy them and he’ll probably share them, as he will the chocolates.
LEMON POPPY SEED COOKIES
2 ¾ cups flour
½ t. salt
½ t. baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 large egg
2 T. poppy seeds
2 t. finely grated lemon peel
1 t. vanilla extract
½ t. lemon extract
For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temp.
1/3 cup plus 1 T. sugar
½ t. lemon extract
¼ t. vanilla extract
Mix together flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in a large bowl until light. Gradually beat in sugar. Beat in egg, then poppy seeds, grated lemon and both extracts.
In 3 additions, mix in dry ingredients. Gather dough into a ball and divide in half. Flatten each half into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 2 hrs.
Butter 2 large baking sheets and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll out one disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to a 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 2 ½-inch cookie cutter (fluted if you have it), cut out cookies. Arrange cookies on prepared sheets one inch apart. Gather scraps, re-roll and cut.
Bake about 18 min., or just until edges begin to color. Cool cookies on the sheets for 3 min. then transfer to racks to cool completely. Repeat with other dough disk. (At this point, the cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temp. for up to 2 weeks, or frozen.)
To make filling: Beat all ingredients in a large bowl until light and fluffy. When ready to assemble cookies, spread 2 t. filling over the bottom of one cookie, press second cookie, bottom side down, onto filling. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling. If making these ahead, cover and chill. Once they are filled, they don’t keep well.
Note: The cookies are very good by themselves if you don’t have time or don’t wish to make the filling. Kids love these, by the way, as much as dads do.
And to satisfy the chocolate sweet tooth, some Mexican brownies. He fell in love with these during one of the several trips to Mazatlan he and Mom shared with us.
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¾ cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 T. vanilla
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 disk Mexican chocolate, very coarsely chopped*
½ cup toasted pecans or almonds
Stir chopped unsweetened chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan over how heat until melted and smooth. Pour into a medium bowl. Whisk in sugar. Whisk in eggs, then flour, vanilla and ground cinnamon. Stir in chopped Mexican chocolate and nuts.
Transfer batter to a buttered 8×8-inch glass baking dish. Smooth top. Bake brownie in a preheated 325-degree oven until a tester inserted into center comes out with fudgy crumbs still attached, about a half hour (be careful not to over bake).
Transfer to a rack to cool. Cut brownie into 12 squares; serve with vanilla ice cream, or whatever else turns you on with brownies.
* Mexican chocolate, sold in disks, is usually available in the Mexican food section of supermarkets; Ibarra is a typical brand. It is excellent, also, for hot chocolate on a cold evening and for chocolate sauces.
Margaret Walton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.