OT: Do not consume any red-colored liquids or alcohol

Saturday afternoon. I’m standing in the kitchen and my mother is sitting at the breakfast bar. I’m stirring my third package of jello and my mother is watching me. I’m running my trouble psalm through the back of my head and my mother is talking on the phone.

The congregational prayer chain has broken the blanket information embargo. The phone has rung every twenty minutes or so since seven a.m. My mother says, again and again, “During a thyroid followup. Stage Four. It’s a blessing that Serv is here for the summer. Mid-August. Oh, that’s so kind of you. Yes, we’ll need help when she goes.” By four p.m. she has a list of twenty women who have volunteered to drive her to chemo on a minute’s notice. I haven’t told my mother, yet, about my calculations about whether I’ll actually leave. Time enough to decide on Tuesday or Wednesday. The contract for the job arrived, like a bad penny, via express delivery on Friday.

Everyone knows. My mother’s second cousin’s wife calls to tell someone to drive out and pick up two chickens to stew. When I get there, she says, “I’m sorry for your mother’s troubles and we’re praying for you. Jesus will watch over her.” When I stop to buy gas at the corners, the cashier, who I don’t recognize and who must go to my parents’ church, treats me to a Kit-Kat bar.

No Saturday evening baking for a shiny Sunday morning, which is fine. For some reason dough rises better in the morning for me.

Instead, all bought: Gelatin, Gatorade, popsicles, juice without pulp, water, diet soda.

In the morning, when I got home from shopping, I made That Soup for my mother. Easy this time. No solids allowed so I didn’t have to pick the carcass. I fortified the broth with every vegetable I could think of that suits and all of my prayers in English, Hebrew and German and I have strained it four times. All the things that make a soup good have been fished out and put in a casserole; I’ll clean it up on Monday evening and pour a different broth over it from a can and add some noodles and make sure my father eats some and offer the rest to whoever sits with us to pray on Tuesday. The Ladies’ Aid has already organized it.

In light of that, the bedroom, bathrooms, living room, and entry are cleaned and polished.

Purchased: 5 cryptic crossword puzzle books and a bag of stupid G-rated romance novels from Goodwill. Borrowed from the library: twenty-five DVDs of films and a few real novels. Installed and troubleshot: an Internet router for wifi at home. Packed: enough crocheting supplies to outfit the Luxembourg Army with scarves in a wintry year. A sober bag with a $40 duster in it, the occasion of a squabble over what clothes cost nowadays, and we’ll only give it away anyway, you know. I’ll never wear it again.

I refrain from saying that if $40 is the biggest thing we have to give away, we’ll be blessed. I know this discussion is about the hospital and not about the $40.

And now I’m making gelatin.

Mom hangs up the phone. “What are you doing?” she asks.

“Making jello,” I say. “Testing the axiom that a watched pot never boils.”

“Oh, honey, I don’t need that much,” she says.

“Oh, I know,” I said. “I thought we should eat it with you. Solidarity.”

“Oh,” she says, and brightens. “That’ll be nice. Your dad likes jello.” She looks again at the counter. “But that’s the third package. We’ll never eat all that.”

“I’m making one of those layered jellos,” I explain. “You need like four or five layers for it to look good.”

“You can’t use any red,” she says.

“Yeah, I know,” I say. “I’ve got lemon, lime, melon, pineapple, and clear. I checked. No red dye in any of them.”

“Okay,” she says. “Though it is prettier when there are cream layers in it, and I can’t have that.”

“No cream layers,” I affirm.

She lets out a sigh of relief. “Wow, I haven’t had one of those in a long time.”

“Yeah, you usually made the kind with the pineapple and the baby food carrots in it.”

“Your dad doesn’t like orange jello, so I stopped making it when your brother left home.”

“And then there was the one that grandma always made for picnics.”

“Mmm,” she says, “cherry with banana slices. But I can’t have red or banana,” she reminds me.

“Yeah, I know,” I say again.

“You know, I think the last time I ate this was when you were a teenager, and you made fancy ones for that youth group progressive dinner. Do you remember? You made them in little popover dishes and you flipped each one out onto a lettuce leaf? And the layers were in rainbow order?”

I smirk. I really thought I had something to prove as a teenager, didn’t I? Glad those days are over. “That is probably the last time I made it,” I agree.

“Those were so elegant,” she says. “Do you remember how much [BF at the time] liked to eat?”

“I sure do,” I said. “That boy was always hungry.”

“I remember him saying how pretty they were–”

“Before he mampfed one down in three bites–” I continue, and we both laugh.

“Maybe he’s learned to eat with better manners since then. What’s he doing now?” she asks.

“He’s a pastor,” I say. “Over by Marshfield. He’s on facebook. I saw the pictures from the twentieth anniversary of his ordination last week.”

“Does he have kids?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, “Three. The oldest one went to Mequon in the fall. One has severe autism.”



“You know, you should have been a pastor’s wife. You’d have been great at it.”

I go to the stove, measure out a cup of boiling water, and drop it into the jello, looking down all the while.

I should have been a pastor, I think.

[G-d is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear, though the mountains are carried into the midst of the sea G-d is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear, though the mountains are carried into the midst of the sea G-d is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear, though the mountains are carried into the midst of the sea]

“Yeah, probably,” I say, after a pause, not looking up.

She looks at me. “But you turned out okay, anyway,” she says, a bit anxiously.

“Looks like this is dissolved,” I say, turning away from her toward the fridge. “I need to see if the previous layer is cool enough to put on the first layer.”

She gets up off the stool and walks toward me and gets to me just as I’m opening the fridge door. She hugs me from behind. “You really did turn out okay,” she says.

I pause with my hand on the door, and shake.

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~ by Servetus on July 1, 2012.

One Response to “OT: Do not consume any red-colored liquids or alcohol”

  1. […] But G-d was still there, demanding His service. There were ways for girls to serve G-d and she did those things. She taught Sunday School, volunteered for various tasks, played the piano and the organ endlessly, visited shut-ins, presidented the youth group, drove for progressive dinners. […]


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