More Maudlin Maunderings

by Bernard Brandt

Well, the house blessing has come and gone. The duck cassoulet was the hit of the party, The dessert cheesecake went quite well with the champagne and the port, and a good time was had by all. I wish that I could have invited more, including the six or seven readers here. ‘Had we but world enough, and time…’

And, the next day, Monday, there was enough cassoulet to have a party at my mother’s house, for my brother Bill, my nephew John, his friend Ryan, my mother, and myself. With something left over for my friend Larry, who could probably use it right now.

And, for my friends whom I could not invite, my current plans are to get the materials together, and, on Passion Week before Pascha, to confect another duck cassoulet to bring to St. Andrew Russian Catholic Church, for the feast we have after our celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I think most of youze guyz call it ‘Easter’. As you hipsters are wont to say, save the date.

I was sufficiently energetic as well on Monday to cook eight pounds of chicken thighs and legs gotten cheaply at the local multi-culti mart, a half gallon of liquid yogurt poured over the lot in a gallon zip lock bag and soaking there from the Sunday night after the party, spiced, dredged in flour, and fried beautifully. I have talked about the recipe used here. It wasn’t for me or my family though. It was for my two good neighbors, Ernie, who runs the man cave in his garage next door, and Benny, the local ex-gang homeboy, who treats me regularly to huge plastic cups full of Hennessey, Courvoisier, and El Jimador. We had a party on Friday, which had ‘stayed me in a happy hour’, and while I was in my cups, I said that I would provide them both with a fried chicken feast. One tries to keep one’s word. Especially with such good folk as they are.

But now it’s a Tuesday morning, on a dismal day, where everything is gray, including my outlook on life. I’m currently working my way through a bot of a Trader Joe’s Blanc de Blancs. I intend on continuing through the liter and a half of fair California Sauvignon Blanc which was one legacy of the Sunday house blessing. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner may also be involved. Or not.

My mother is dying.

I’ve tried avoiding talking about it. This was helped, in its odd way, by my illnesses of the past month. Because of her age and her allied illnesses, she was immune compromised. I was harboring some rather nasty viral bugs. It would have done her no favors by sharing them with her. So, for a month, I did not visit.

And then she had the stroke.

My brother called when she had it. I was in bed, and missed the call. I called back later, and spoke with her. She could still speak.

So I did not know the full extent of the damage from the stroke. Until later.

She has lost the use of her legs, and of her right hand. She was right handed. As a hobby, I have studied neurology and neurophysiology. I was and remain fascinated by the structure and functions of the human brain. Judging from the dysfunctions, I could probably give an accurate map of the areas of the brain affected by the stroke.

I hope you will pardon me if I drink instead.

I am reminded of the quotation at the beginning of T. S. Eliot’s poem, ‘The Waste Land’. Though seldom properly attributed, it is from the ‘Satyricon’ of Petronius Arbitor. It is from the ‘Cena Trimalchionis’, that opera buffa, where a nouveau riche billionaire provides an elaborate feast for his guests. And Trimachio, the host of the event, says the following:

Nam Sybillam quidem Cumis ego ipsis oculis meis vidi in ampullis pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent, ‘Sibylla ti theleis?’ Et respondebat illa, ‘apothanein thelo’.

I realize full well that I get points off for not putting the text in single quotes into proper Greek script. But, well, I’m a bit impaired just now. And planning to get more than a trifle more impaired. Deal with it.

But, for the majority of you philology impaired, it is a terrible thing to realize that your mother has become the Sybil of Cumis, and that she wants to die.

Bye, all. I’ll come back when I’m not so poisoned by life. Or death.

I’m just happy that my mother could have some few teaspoons of the cassoulet that I cooked for her. And that she enjoyed them.