Saturday, June 20, 2009
An Evening with the Larkins
Minnie and Merle Larkin spent the cool evening hours of their 55th wedding anniversary on their front porch. Just before this picture was taken they celebrated the occasion with one of Minnie’s finger lickin good fried chicken dinners.
“Merle loves his Friday Fried Chicken,” Minnie said while standing over a frying pan full of chicken and hot popping oil. “I’ve also got a pot of boiling potatoes here for mashed potatoes. Just before serving I’ll use the chicken drippings and make up a nice pot of chicken gravy.” Minnie stopped for a moment and lifted a chicken leg from the oil. She checked to be sure it wasn’t burning then carefully put it back. “I can’t decide on corn or peas. Merle is partial to both.”
Minnie used the kitchen counter for balance as she shuffled to the pantry. She opened the door and stood with both hands on her hips while inspecting its contents from the top of her glasses. “Yep I was right. I did get a can of each at the Piggly Wiggly. I’ll wait for Merle to come home and ask him.” She returned to the stove to check her chicken. I thought back to my own grandmother as i watched her tenderly see to her supper. My grandmother loved to cook for family and friends. She never consulted a cookbook. It was all in her head, her fingers and her heart.
“Merles out helping our boy fix his back garden fence. He should be home soon. I told him not to be late. It’s not often we get company.” Minnie stopped and stepped sideways facing the kitchen window. She reached for the yellowed lace curtain. Her hand was weathered with age.
A few fingers seemed to turn at odd angles from overly large knuckles. The diagnosis was easy, Minnie suffered silently with arthritis. It was her burden and she carried it well. She leaned forward over the porcelain sink and looked both directions out the window.
“ Jon doesn’t have his father’s handiness. I worry about him sometimes. Merle will over do it and then his back will go out. Then its bed and plenty of hot water bottles.” Minnie dropped the curtain and moved toward a cubbard. She hummed a hymn between sentences.
We heard the front screen door slam. Merle was home. His overhauls looked well lived in. His shirt sleeves were rolled up. He leaned against the front door while removing his boots.
“Merle that you?” Minne called from the kitchen. Not a word was spoken between them. Minnie continued to cook and Merle pulled his socks up. He walked into the kitchen and stood beside her looking at the chicken in the pan. His smile turned into a kiss which he deposited on Minnie’s cheek.
“Fried Chicken on a Wednesday?” Merle asked.
“Its Friday Merle. You know that.” Minnie replied patiently.
“Yes it is. How is Jon?” Minnie asked while getting the mixer out to mash the potatoes.
“Jon’s fine. He just dropped me off by the gate. Did I tell you I was going to Jon’s?” Merle asked reaching for the same things as Minnie but always arriving too late. He tried to help but seemed to be getting in the way.
“Yes I was in the Parlor when he came to pick you up?” Minnie said while pouring milk over the potatoes.
“Yes Merle. I was. Now go to the bathroom and wash your hands.”
Merle grunted and turned toward the hallway.
“Merle, remember, you’re going to the bathroom to wash your hands.” Minnie reminded him. Merle grunted.
“Bless him but he is getting very forgetful. I want to take him to the doctor but he won’t have it. They scare him. At his age every visit usually ends in bad news. He says he's ready for Jesus any time. Well, he may be but I’m not. “Merle, are you washing your hands?” Minnie called out.
“What was that?” Merle called back.
“Washing Your Hands. Are You Washing Your Hands?”
“Yes I’m washing my hands,” he called from the bathroom.
After dinner Merle and Minnie sat side by side on the porch. I sat below on the steps. We watched the shadows lengthen as the sun went down.
The neighborhood was quiet except for the occasional car that passed in front of the house. It was an older neighborhood. Some yards well kept, others not.
“Its a warm night,” Merle observed as he unbuttoned a button on his shirt.
“Should we go in? The Variety Showcase will be on soon.”
“The Variety Showcase is on Wednesday nights. This is Friday,” Minnie answered. She looked at me. I heard her expression ask me if I understood how frustrating it was to keep corrected him. I smiled.
“Is it really? Funny that,” Merle said scratching his chin trying to remember what he did last Wednesday. “Well, we’ve got Saturday tomorrow and church on Sunday. Maybe I’ll help Jon again tomorrow.”
“You do that.” Minnie replied.
“Sure has been dry lately,” I say hoping to introducing a topic I knew the elderly liked to discuss.
“Just look at the lawn,” Minnie said. She picked up her cane and pointed out all the brown spots. “I should water more but the constant bending isn't good for my back. At our age some things just have to be left to nature.”
Merle looked puzzled, as if trying to remember something he once knew but lost in some corner of his mind. Then he remembered, “Its been dry. Not as dry as the Big Drought of ‘54 mind you.”
Minnie looked up to the sky as if to ask God for help,”Merle did you forget about the drought we had in ‘65?”
“Was it ‘65?”
“I don’t remember that one.”
“Well, remember it because that was the worst drought I can remember and my memory is as good as it was when I was twenty.”
They continued to talk weather. I watched the blue sky turn dark. The street light came on two houses down. It was time to go. I thanked them for the lovely meal and pleasant conversation. They both stood as I walked to my car. Just before I drove off I heard Merle turn to Minnie and ask who I was. She reached up and patted him on the cheek.
“Never mind Merle. Never mind. Lets go inside.”
I drove down Old Mill Road to Highway One. I turned left for home. It was a good night, as most nights are in Cloverdale.