On Friday night the phone rang.
The voice on the other end of the line was shaky. My heart sank somewhere deep into my gut. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Grammie had a stroke.”
My brain stopped. My heart froze. My body went numb and I found my formerly-upright self, sitting on the floor, clutching the phone so hard my hand started to lose all feeling.
“Is she okay?” I managed to get out in a slightly tortured, high pitch squeak.
“She’s in the ICU. They are watching her very closely.” I could hear the heartbreak in my mother’s voice as she told me she had to get off the phone. As broken as I was feeling after receiving this news, I reminded myself that this was her Mama. This was the woman who raised her and rocked her to sleep and put band-aids on her boo-boos and reminded her to be kind and taught her how to love everyone. All of the things that my Mama has done for me.
I tried to process this information. My head got stuck in this loop. “But, yesterday was Grammie’s birthday, and I didn’t even call her. I sent her a stupid facebook message and told myself I would call her later or tomorrow. I can’t believe I didn’t call her.” I cried. I called my aunt to get updates. I was told it was a waiting game.
I just sat there in the same spot on the carpet frozen. My husband came home from work, and there I was sitting. He grabbed me close and I cried all over his t-shirt. He sprung into action asking all the questions I had asked but didn’t have answers for. “Is she going to be okay?” “How exactly did it happen?” “How bad is it?” I just stayed sitting.
In my mind if I didn’t move from that spot on the carpet, time would just stop and the plot would not move forward. It was my way of trying to hold onto the hope of the present. She is in the ICU. She is here. She is alive. It was almost like a game. My brain telling me “Don’t move. If you move, things can happen. You don’t want things to happen. Just sit.” Obviously, things were going to happen whether I stayed in that exact spot, or whether I got the courage to stand up and exist in any other position besides seated.
I stayed that way for hours.
Finally, my husband couldn’t take it anymore. He respected my right to believe that I, myself, held the power of the universe in my seated bottom, but he could not respect my right to not eat anything for dinner. Nothing sounded good. If you know me (which, I think you do), you will note that I love food feverishly. If I am not hungry, it’s dinner time, and I haven’t eaten anything for lunch… something is wrong. Real wrong. So, he did what any self-respecting husband of a Hawaiian-Italian wife would do. He shoved a gluten-free pizza in my face. The only reason he went with pizza over Kalua pork and cabbage or pokē and poi is that pizza is much easier to procure in the suburbs at 9pm. He did good. I ate it.
Also, it turns out that you cannot stop the plot of life from moving forward by just staying in a seated position. This is not an actual thing. I got wise and started moving.
The days following have been filled with ups and downs. Our whole family has banded together (just like Grammie taught us to do) to support each other. We take turns staying at the hospital overnight. We feed each other. We watch each other’s munchkins. We hug each other. We rally around Grammie and hold her hands and encourage her. We pray. We joke around. We sit in her room and tell stories. I am so grateful for my family. When I think about them my heart swells and dances. I am a lucky, lucky girl.
When I’m not at the hospital, I found that my hands feel best when they’re mixing flour. It’s a baking as therapy situation. Grammie would like this. Grammie feeds people like it’s her job. It’s just a thing she taught us to do. It’s the Hawaiian way. It’s strongly ingrained in us that food heals people. If you are having a hard time, I will make you a stew.
I started my therapy off with a loaf of banana bread. This was pretty much the only thing that I could eat that tasted and felt good going down. I ate a lot of banana bread. The next day I was at home, I was out of ripe bananas, but spotted a can of pumpkin in the pantry. Game on. Now I’m surviving on this loaf of Cinnamon Pumpkin Raisin Bread. You will like it. I plan on eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I will probably bake another loaf and take it back with me when I head back up to the hospital.
Grammie is making strides every day. She amazes me. My mom told her that she is doing a SUPER job. She managed to open her eyes, look at all of us, and get out “No, YOU are doing a SUPER job.” She is in there. She can hear us. She is fighting like heck. She can feel us rallying together. She is proud.
She is the toughest woman I know.
If I’m not around a lot in these next few weeks, it’s because I’m sitting with my Gram, hugging my Mama, loving my family, compulsively baking, and watching with faith and amazement as the plot rolls forward towards recovery.
Thanks for understanding, Friends. Your thoughts, prayers, and healing vibes are beyond appreciated.
Now, go give each other hugs and let me feed you this pumpkin bread. Grammie would like that. xox
- 1 cup All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour ( I used Bob's Red Mill)
- 1/2 cup Buckwheat Flour
- 1/4 cup Almond Meal
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 2 tsp Xanthan Gum
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup Coconut Sugar
- 1/8 cup Maple Syrup
- 1 tbs Vanilla Extract
- 2 Eggs
- 1 cup Canned Pumpkin
- 6 oz Plain Greek Yogurt (a little more than half a cup)
- 1 cup Raisins
- 1 tbs sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon, for topping
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
- Butter your bread pan generously and set aside.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl add your flours, almond meal, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt and spices. Whisk them all together until everything is evenly combined.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together your brown sugar, coconut sugar and olive oil until it is smooth. Make sure to break up any lumps and whisk very well.
- Add your eggs in one at a time and continue to whisk together until the eggs are completely mixed into the sugar and oil.
- Using a wooden spoon, mix in your pumpkin and your Greek yogurt. Gently stir together until the whole mixture comes together.
- Add your flour mixture, a little at a time, into your liquid mixture.
- Stir until it is completely combined.
- Gently fold in your raisins until they are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
- Using a baking spatula, add your mixture into your buttered loaf pan. Smooth out the top of your bread to the best of your abilities.
- Mix together your sugar and cinnamon for your topping. Sprinkle it evenly on top of your unbaked bread.
- Pop your bread into the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes. Your bread is done when the top has a nice golden brown crust and is no longer doughy in the center. When a knife or cake tester is inserted into the middle of your loaf it should come out cleanly.
- Let your loaf cool for fifteen minutes and serve.
(Recipe adapted from Shutterbean)