Update 3/11/10: My uncle passed away last night, after fighting for more than a year longer than we thought he would, and just a few days after my parents went to see him and brought him cookies. I will miss him.
My great uncle seems to be dying. I found out Saturday, after brunch, walking next to my mom and my brother in the crisp spring air that made us hug our arms to our chests and pinch our fingers into fists.
It’s not like I knew him very well. I actually don’t think I’ve seen him since four years ago or more, at that family reunion after his daughter’s wedding. But I saw him a lot when my grandma was sick.
He was healthy then, much healthier than she was, and he and his daughter—my mom’s cousin—sat with us at our dinner table and told stories about his wife, my grandma’s sister, who used to make me spaghetti and meatballs when we’d go to her house, climbing up tall steps to her back porch and into the kitchen.
And he was there for my graduation parties, and he always sent me a crisp $5 in a Christmas card, all through my growing up years.
When I had to write a paper on someone who’d survived the Depression, it as just after my grandma had died, and he was the only relative from her generation left.
So I mailed the interview questions to Uncle Lindy, and he filled them all out, every one, with scratchy penmanship in lines that were straight without trying.
He wrote that there were no jobs then, people had to share a can of tomatoes for dinner, his paper route paid $2.50 a week. And I kept all those sheets, put them in a big green box in my cabinets.
I’m supposed to visit him in the hospital this week. But seeing him means seeing Grandma, remembering her days in the hospital, when her body was shriveled and sick, when she didn’t always know who I was.
I brought her a photo album one visit, telling her about a school banquet and showing her the blue dress I wore, and she called me Nancy, my mom’s name, and she fell asleep.
I don’t know if she knew we were there when we rubbed rose lotion on her legs and her arms and played music in the background, talking to her and touching her when she couldn’t respond, but most of the time I say she did.
This last weekend, on Easter Sunday, while my great uncle was in a hospital and my grandma had been gone for nine-and-a-half years, my family of four ate a feast of pot roast and chicken, with bread stuffing, salad, rolls, cranberry sauce, caramel cake, banana cream pie, roasted asparagus with walnut crema.
We ate until we were full, very full, enough to pat our bellies and wander to big chairs. And I had one of those moments that I have sometimes, the kind where I look at my family and think, this is very good.
I wanted to stop time right there, to keep from growing older, from seeing the breath of life puff away from any of us, any of them.
And then I remembered what we were celebrating on Easter: death to life, hope fulfilled, sorrow replaced by joy. Joy that this life is not all there is, joy that what will come is better.
That was very good, too.
I substituted Pecorino Romano for Pecorino Tartufo—it was much easier to find. I had forgotten how much I loved Pecorino, which I first remember having on a salad last summer in Sausalito, at a charming Italian restaurant on our way into the downtown.
It’s wonderful with the roasted asparagus, which, when cooked at 500 degrees F in your oven, emerges tender and slightly charred, just like those pizzas I love so much.
The mingling of olive oil and sea salt gives it its flavor, complemented by the walnut crema, which has the consistency of hummus and the unmistakable taste of toasted walnuts, slightly bitter and nutty.
If you love the taste of these green spear like veggies, be sure to check out our Asparagus Cooking Guide.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna has a Masters in Writing through Depaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.