Thursday, February 4, 2016

_The Hancock News_ Column--February 3, 1016

I loved my grandparents-- Grandma, Grand-daddy, Oma, and Opa. I still love them. They’ve been gone for over a decade or two, but sometimes my heart just aches to watch one more game of solitaire, to bounce in the farm truck over the rutted, dirt roads once more, to guess one more Wheel of Fortune puzzle, and to knead one more batch of bread with them. Just once I wish I could proudly lay one of my babies in their arms.

So when I married my husband, I thought it was so cool that three of his grandparents and one great-grandparent were still alive. Sure, they weren’t my grandparents, but they could be the next-best thing.

Well, two passed away before I could get to know them much, but we were lucky to be able to visit more frequently with Grandma Mary and Grandpa Bill. My children have been blessed to know their great-grandparents (something I certainly didn’t have a chance to do), and I have been given a second-chance to have beloved grandparents.

As the years have passed, I’ve been able proudly to lay seven great-grandchildren in their arms. We’ve enjoyed cider-making, weddings, and a trip to the zoo with Grandma and Grandpa. Once when they visited from Ohio, we went on a bit of an adventure traipsing about the Frederick County countryside in search of the Stottlemyer roots in cemeteries, churches, and even an old homestead.

But last week, as the white snow began to fall in a thick blanket here, in Ohio Grandpa Bill took his last breath and settled into his final sleep.

We were plowed and shoveled out in time to load up our van and head west to the funeral. We left early Wednesday and returned late on Friday; everything in between was a chaotic whirlwind of activity.

From viewing to funeral to graveside service to church dinner to family get-togethers, we were surrounded by Grandpa’s family-- his sisters, Grandma, the four children, the 23 grandchildren, and the 13 great-grandchildren plus all the spouses. Memories of scoldings, Grandpa’s routines and crazy drives through the mountains filled our ears as we looked at pictures both old and new of Grandpa, with and without his caps and cigars.

Sadness welled up and tears spilled over, but all that family blended with the comforting words of scripture and hymns to make a balm like no other for our aching hearts. Grandpa’s funeral and accompanying activities were truly a celebration of his life. Many of us somewhat guiltily noticed that this funeral was fun because we were able to connect with the entire family.

I learned last week that the Stottlemyer roots aren’t really found in crumbling stone markers in cemeteries or in old houses or on genealogy websites. Our roots are still alive and nourishing a living family tree with branches and leaves, and beneath those leaves, in our time of grief, we found shelter and comfort and love. I hope your family tree is much the same.


Speaking of roots. . .we picked up these potatoes back in September, and they made lovely soup!

We spent way too much time in our van last week, but it was so much fun as the children piled in to hear them bubble over in excitement about Cousin Such-and-Such and Uncle Who’s-it, people they’d not had a chance to know before.

Traveling with children can be tricky. Of course, kids are always hungry, so we make sure to have plenty of snacks on hand. Unfortunately, that means our vehicles are not perfectly clean because kids do spill.

One of our biggest spills happened when we made one of Grandpa Bill’s favorite soups--potato soup--to take to him and Grandma. I can’t remember how it happened, but half of that huge pot of soup was spilled in our vehicle and on the ground. What a mess!

I adapted this potato soup recipe from one given to me by my sister-in-law. It is creamy and delicious by itself, but for a variation, try topping it with shredded cheese, bacon, and chopped green onion.

Potato Soup

7 1/2 cups potatoes, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
6 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 Tbsp. salt
3 cups milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup flour

To a large pot add potatoes, celery, broth, pepper, and salt. Bring this to a simmer. After simmering for 20 minutes, add the milk.

In a small bowl, blend melted butter and flour until smooth. Add about 1/2 cup of the broth from the potatoes to the butter-flour paste and mix well. Add this mixture back into the potatoes and stir until it is blended in. Simmer all together for another 20 minutes.

*This post has been shared at The Art of Home-Making Monday at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth.

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