My husband and I have lived in the same house for over thirty years and have had the same neighbors, to the south of us, for that entire time.
Throughout the many years that we have lived on this earth side by side, our neighborhood has celebrated, cared and cried for each other. We have watched our children grow; play; squabble; graduate elementary school, middle school, high school and college. Then, move away and begin families of their own making us proud grandparents. In many ways, I am closer to my neighbors than I am my own siblings. No one on this earth could have asked for better neighbors.
My neighbor’s wife has always been our neighborhood adult. A finer person, I have yet to meet. My neighbor, on the other hand, is a combination of wise sage, smart-ass, and political guru. When that man was young, I swear, he could mow the lawn with a beer in each hand and still have the straightest lawnmower lines on the block. Outstanding talent!
There are two things that I can count on from my neighbor. He always tells it like it is and he makes me laugh. During my thirty-year career in politics, my neighbor would share his political opinions, whether I liked them or not. Then, he would tell me who was going to win the election and he was always right. He has an uncanny ability to read the electorate and pick the winners.
Then, too, no matter how bad things get, he makes me laugh. During my cancer battle, when I was crippled up in pain with multiple spinal fractures, I was stuck in a gosh awful body cast for over eighteen months. Now for those of you who have never seen this contraption of uncomfortableness and torture, I will describe it. It is a hard piece of plastic from chin to hip with the chest cut out so that you can breathe….a little. I could not be out of bed without the body cast on.
One day, when I had no make-up on, hair uncombed, and was wearing that cast while hunched over my walker making a herculean effort to push it a few feet further down our street than I had before, my neighbor comes by to say hello. He takes one look and me, points at the cast and exclaims with a broad smile, “That thing is kinda sexy.” Laughter hurt, but it was a good hurt.
My neighbor has also bailed me out of several near disasters. Like when he patiently sat by his backyard fire and scraped all of the melted Tupperware, which looked like melted marshmallow, off of all of my oven racks. I look inside my oven now, before I turn it on…most of the time.
Then, there was the time he got a fine for helping me burn my trees that had been knocked down by a tornado. When he saw the police office on a mission marching across his backyard towards us, he whispered, “Patricia, have you ever been arrested?” I sadly shook my head no and quickly informed him that I had never even had a parking ticket, but did once have a late library book. He grinned at me, said that is what he thought, and went over to greet the cop. It was only this past spring, many years later, that he told me he got actually got fined.
My neighbor has always been very complimentary of my baking, which is high praise as he is a very accomplished cook. Last winter, he actually helped me and another neighbor learn to make our own cheese. After successfully completing the project, looking at all of the dirty dishes and messy kitchen, us two women decided that while the fresh cheese tasted outstanding we’d stick to purchasing our cheese.
No matter how awful, bald or sick I looked, during my cancer battle my neighbor would tell me I was looking good, cheer me on and would often shout, “Hurry up and get well so you can get back in the kitchen!”
I have returned to my kitchen and can again bake most of my favorite recipes. In June, just about two weeks before I was to leave on my long planned cancer victory trip to Montana to hike in the mountains, I noticed that both my husband and my neighbor were up early mowing lawn. I had some blueberries and decided to make the boys some blueberry coffee cake.
When I walked a piece of warm cake over to my neighbor, he was all smiles. He said he just had poured himself a cup of coffee and the cake would be perfect. I responded, “See you’d have missed me if I had croaked!” He responded that yes he would have missed me and my baking a lot. We both laughed and agreed that it was so very nice that our neighborhood was somewhat back to normal.
The very next week, my dear neighbor developed stroke like symptoms. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The worst kind. A very aggressive Glioblastoma. His prognosis is challenging.
It isn’t supposed to be this way, he is exactly my age. Oh, I always figured that my neighbor would die young. That I accepted long ago, but I always figured he’d go out in a blaze of glory by getting struck by lightening on the golf course, or by electrocuting himself by severing another power line with his digging spade, or falling off yet another ladder, or going bird shooting with Dick Cheney. Not like this, never like this! Not, MY neighbor!
When my neighbor’s wife told me the news, I immediately offered to cancel my trip to the mountains, but neither of them would hear of it. I was told to go, enjoy myself and not to give them a thought. Well, I went, I enjoyed myself, but I certainly prayed and thought about both of them and their only child often.
True to form, my neighbor took on his cancer battle with a stellar positive attitude. He would do no less. However, despite the amazing care provided by his wife, that poor man has had nothing, but one horrible side effect after another during his cancer treatment. While I cannot do much about any of his other side effects, there is one side effect that I can do something about…he has developed an insatiable sweet tooth.
So, while I have been neglecting my blog this summer, I have been in my kitchen baking for my neighbor, his wife, son and his sweet tooth. My friend’s favorites…pie, cheesecake, chocolate-zucchini cake, orange chiffon cake, caramel and sweet rolls, lemon zucchini bread and a variety of cookies are frequently delivered to his home.
This week I had planned to make his favorite cake, carrot cake, as a special treat to celebrate his last week of radiation. However, yesterday, my buddy, took a terrible turn for the worse and is back in the hospital. Regardless, I have have decided that I am going to go ahead and bake his cake. That way, it will be here when he comes home. However, if you could, would you all pray for my dear neighbor who right now is so very sick, anxious and pain ridden, and for his dear wife and son.
Thank you and God Bless!
The World’s Best Carrot Cake from the kitchen of Kathy Warrick
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a small mixing bowl stir together:
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
In a large mixing bowl combine:
1 cup of oil
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3 whole eggs
Add flour mixture to the egg mixture and combine completely.
1 cup crushed pineapple, well drained
2 cups carrots, finely grated
1 cup coconut, shredded
1 cup of raisins
Optional: 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
When batter is completely mixed, pour into greased 9 X 13 pan or into two greased and floured eight-inch layer cake pans. Bake the 9 X 13 cake for about 45 minutes and the layer cakes for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Remove cake from oven and cool completely. If you are making a layer cake, let the cake cool for 15 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely. When cooled, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
In a small mixing bowl whip together with an electric mixer:
1-8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
3 cups of powdered sugar
Add and mix until completely combined:
2 teaspoons of vanilla.
Garnish cake with 1 cup of shredded coconut.
Blogger Update: I just learned that he has had a better day today.