it’s gone

it's gone | the merry gourmet

I walked out of the parking garage at work and headed toward the cancer hospital. It was a Saturday morning of the long weekend, and team rounds were scheduled to begin in about fifteen minutes. The parking garage is not my usual one. This one is closer to the hospital, and on weekends, I won’t get a ticket for parking there. When I’m on service in the hospital – two weeks straight as the attending of the oncology inpatient unit and the oncology consult service, 24 hour-per-day call – this small thing feels like a luxury. A few less steps to take to get in to the hospital, a few less steps to take when I’m headed home to my family.

Nestled between my weekend parking garage and the hospital is the nursing home where my dad lived for the last year of his life. I hate that place. When I think back on the trauma I experienced with the loss of my father to dementia, the nursing home plays a starring role in my memories.

I park in that parking garage less than two dozen times per year, only when I’m on service. Usually, on my way to the hospital or back to my car, I find myself holding my breath as I walk by the nursing home. Sometimes I cut through the parking lot, taking care not to trip on the tree roots that have buckled the asphalt. Other times, I give the place a wide berth. Even without stepping foot inside, I can remember the smell of it. If I allow my mind to wander, I can feel the black memories beginning to return, squeezing the breath out of my chest. So I hold my breath, quicken my pace, and think about my team and the patients waiting on me. Go, I tell myself. Walk faster.

This Saturday was different. As I neared the path that cuts through the nursing home parking lot, I realized something was different. A chain-link construction fence blocked the way. I walked several steps more, then stopped. It’s gone, I thought. I turned back and walked back to an opening in the fence to get a closer look. It’s finally gone.

The nursing home had been bulldozed. My ever-expanding hospital bought the property several months ago, and though I’d hoped that one day this would happen, the nursing home remained. Until now. In the bare construction site, near a construction dumpster, only a single large oak tree remained. That oak tree had provided shade over the depressing back patio of the nursing home, where a handful of wheelchair-bound patients sat outside and smoked.

I took a deep breath and felt a wave of relief wash over me. I raised my phone and took a photo. I needed the evidence. I looked down at the photo of the empty lot, smiled to myself, and walked the rest of the way to the cancer hospital.

I’ve looked at that photo several times since then, and I find it reassuring and comforting each time. That awful place has been torn down, and it feels wonderful to have the ugly reminder of a year’s worth of pain and some of the worst memories of my life gone, completely erased.

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21 Responses to “sweets for the sweet: grandmother’s potato candy”

  1. LiztheChef — December 6, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    Are you aware that when someone is reading your post(s) that a band shoots across, saying “recommended for you”? It really turns me off. Your blog is so popular that I thought others might share the feeling, which is why I bring it to your attention. Meaning the best, Liz

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — December 6th, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

      Try it now, Liz.

  2. SMITH BITES — December 6, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

    such wonderful memories MJ – am thrilled you are now the keeper of the recipes!!

  3. Leigh — December 6, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

    What a beautiful, touching post. I totally want to make some now.

  4. Macaroni Mama — December 6, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

    A wonderful post! I never, ever . . . ever believed that my 88 year old mother would be MY Care-Giver!. Grandmother is so proud of you, Merry Jennifer

  5. katie — December 6, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

    I’ve never heard of potato candy, but I have to say I’m intrigued! Your grandmother’s recipe is bringing me back. My grandmother had very similar cursive and very similar stained, worn pieces of paper with recipes on them. But most of all I’m blown away seeing the word “Oleo”! I haven’t heard that term used in soooo long! Another memory of my grandmother 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  6. Brian @ A Thought For Food — December 6, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

    I love the hand written recipe and the connection to your grandmother… though, it does feel a little bitter sweet. You, your mother, and your grandmother have been so strong this past year! Sending you hugs!

  7. jenn s. — December 6, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

    I have my late Great Aunt Jewel’s recipe for cream cheese poundcake and it is absolutely priceless. One glance at that stained, crumpled paper with the slanted cursive and I am transported back in time to her kitchen where I would help her roll out biscuits (eating dough until my belly was swollen and achy!) and mix up cake batter. She always let me lick the bowl. I make her cake frequently and think of her everytime the sweet, buttery smell of poundcake fills my home. I miss her, but I feel her with me when I cook.

  8. Paula — December 7, 2011 @ 12:16 am

    The potato candy looks delicious but the content of this entire post is so beautifully written. You have a gift with words and spinning them together to tell a story that draws your readers into, carefully savouring every word, wanting more and feeling a little disappointed when the post comes to an end, even though we have been fulfilled, inspired and uplifted.

  9. Kathryn — December 7, 2011 @ 3:54 am

    This was such a wonderful post, you describe the relationship between your parents and grandmother with such love and tenderness.

  10. Janis — December 7, 2011 @ 7:15 am

    I love this post. My grandma was my best friend. I have some of her recipes and they mean everything to me.

  11. Lucy — December 7, 2011 @ 7:17 am

    The stains make it the most prized of treasures – tried and true! Love the story behind this and I’ve always wanted to try this candy recipe. Wishing you the blessings of the holidays with your family!

  12. Mary Constant — December 7, 2011 @ 11:23 am

    What a unique candy! “Eat, drink and be Merry” Someone gave me some cocktail napkins that have “Eat, Drink , and…who’s Mary”

  13. Nicole — December 7, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

    I have never heard of potato candy before! I’ll have to try this one soon. Something about using family recipes that are worn and splattered is one of my absolute favorite ways to create in the kitchen.

  14. Efthimia — December 8, 2011 @ 1:57 am

    The power of grandmothers, whether in a hug or on an old recipe card, is trully remarkable. I lost both mine a few years ago, and I still see them stapling the family together to this day, their legacy being their love.

    And their cooking skills as well. 🙂

    I’ve never heard of potato candy but it sounds delicious, not to mention easiest candy ever. I’m definetely trying this for the holidays. Thank you so much for sharing and I hope everything turns out well.

  15. That’s the best gift to receive. When my grandmother had to move out of her home I was the one who got all her old recipe books and handwritten notes and I am go grateful for that gift.

  16. Jessica @ How Sweet — December 8, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

    Absolutely beautiful, heart-warming story. I have my grandmother’s recipes and have always eyed the one for potato candy but been too scared to try. Love that you did this.

  17. Marla — December 10, 2011 @ 8:59 am

    Such a sweet story of true family bonding and support.
    I have never heard of potato candy, but it sounds wonderful!

  18. Michelle Kreifels — December 21, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

    Very sweet story. I inherited all of my grandmothers photo albums. I miss the days when you actually held a stack of photos in your hand. I am really looking forward to trying this recipe. I have never heard of potato candy!

  19. Denise @ Creative Kitchen — December 22, 2011 @ 12:54 am

    Loved this!! Felt like I got to know you a little better. I, too love the stained old recipes. Merry Christmas!

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