Life, death and pickle juice

What Table Talkers are saying this week about family dinners, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and the lyrics to "Copacabana."

Published September 10, 2004 1:06PM (EDT)

Mothers Who Think

DUH: Don't Go There, Honey!

Aspidistra - 07:17 pm Pacific Time - Sep 6, 2004 - #6293 of 6372

I remember when my father retired and my mother was still working part time. They agreed that Dad should take over the cooking, a task Mom never particularly liked anyway. Dad was a decent cook on special occasion meals, but he was lost when it came to planning day-to-day things.

So he decided that we'd have soup for dinner every night -- homemade soup. He was sure that this would be so healthy and delicious that no one would mind the monotony of it. But I swear he got the recipes from the Dickensian orphanages portrayed in "Oliver." His soups were thick mush, the consistency of overcooked gruel. It was lumpy, but he'd cooked it for so long that you couldn't tell what the lumps were meant to be. It was usually gray or brown. And the only seasoning he used was black pepper, lots and lots of it.

Complaints about the fare were answered with lectures about how you kids don't know what sacrifice is and if we were in a Japanese prison camp during WWII we'd have been grateful for a sumptuous meal like this. Plus, it was healthy and homemade and how could we complain when he'd worked so hard.

There were always lots of leftovers because Dad figured it was more efficient to cook enough for three to four meals at a time. Then he'd store them in these huge glass 1-gallon jars that had previously held pickles. I don't know if the pickle flavor did anything to affect the quality of the soup, but I can tell you that opening the refrigerator and seeing that monstrous jar of glop just sitting there waiting for dinner time was enough to strike fear in our hearts.

So Dad's kitchen duty lasted only a few weeks before, fearing revolt among the peasants, Mom took over the meals again. Strangely enough, I don't think it was intentional. He loved the soup, and he took it all as yet more evidence that he'd raised a bunch of whiney, spoiled malcontents.

Private Life

Make a list

Jeff H - 06:48 am Pacific Time - Aug 26, 2004 - #4091 of 4095

Modern koans to distract your opponents:

1. How wide is a mountain?

2. What emoticon would best represent schadenfreude?

3. What is the minimum number of PowerPoint slides necessary to convey the entire content of the Bible?

4. How could you make coffee using only a toaster, the Chicago Tribune, and a gift certificate to Home Depot?

5. If Apple Computer were to hang a plaque in your honor in their lobby, what would it say?

6. What is the secret ingredient in goulash?

7. When you thump a perfectly ripe muskmelon, what musical note does it make?

8. What television program would be most likely to air a quote from Voltaire -- with attribution?

9. What are the lyrics to "Copacabana"?

Social Issues

Old Broads: Women's Thoughts About Growing Older

EyeCandy_999 - 05:39 pm Pacific Time - Aug 26, 2004 - #542 of 659

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross died two days ago at her home in Scottsdale, Arizona. She was 78 years old.

She has always been one of my heroes. She led one of the most fascinating lives of the 20th century. She was born one of a set of triplets in Switzerland, and she went on to excel in so many areas of life while the other two sisters led very quiet undistinguished lives.

If you want to be inspired, I recommend Elisabeth's autobiography, "The Wheel of Life, a Memoir of Living and Dying," that was finally published in 1997, a few years after the stroke that finally did her in this week.

Here was a woman who went hitchhiking to Russia and got caught behind enemy lines in Poland during World War II and was smuggled out through the border checkpoint in Berlin by being nailed into a small coffin. Here was a woman who put herself through medical school and had to fight her way up to the top of a profession that offered no opportunities for women. Here was a woman who fought the entire medical establishment and changed the way we treat dying patients. She brought death and dying out of the closet and paved the way for the hospice movement to take hold in our country.

I had the opportunity to meet her about 15 years ago and to shake her hand and thank her for the inspiration she had been to me. Her first book, "On Death and Dying," came to me under fortuitous circumstances in 1974 when I was helping my mother-in-law to cross over the threshold in the midst of the denial of everyone else around her.

For those of you who wonder how I have been able to be so strong and optimistic in the face of all the challenges in my life, it is because I looked up to and took to heart Elisabeth's philosophy of life, which she stated so eloquently and succinctly in her autobiography: "This life of mine, which began halfway around the world, has been many things -- but never easy. That is a fact, not a complaint. I have learned there is no joy without hardship. There is no pleasure without pain. Would we know the comfort of peace without the distress of war? If not for AIDS, would we notice our humanity is in jeopardy? If not for death, would we appreciate life? If not for hate, would we know the ultimate goal is love?"

She also said, "It is very important that you do only what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may live in a shabby place, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days, you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do."

I for one feel blessed to have been touched by the life of one so powerful and inspirational as Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and I know for sure that all heaven is celebrating her return and congratulating her for a life well lived.

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