Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day




Today is a day to find your father--whether it be calling him up, driving to his house, or just walking downstairs and standing in the way of whatever sport game he may be watching today--and give him a big, BIG hug and tell him how much you love him. Or maybe it's time to reconcile old ghosts, or end an argument, or start a new path, if your history so requires it. Whatever your relationship with your dad is, today is his day. And you should make sure he knows his son or daughter appreciates him, loves him, or even just merely thanks him for his part in giving you life.

Or, if you're like me, all you can do today is remember.

This is now my fifth Father's Day without my dad. Without my wonderful, huge teddy bear of a father who cried at Disney movies and cooked terrible terrible food that was seasoned with all of the love in his heart. Who lived near Boston and would make the two hour trip every weekend to pick up my brother and me and take him to his house for the weekend. As I got older and got a job and a social life, these visits for me became every other week, and then every month, and then just on holidays. For the first year of college we'd get lunch or dinner every month, and these last memories are ones I cherish.

Dad's Famous Baked Beans

On September 20, 2007, while I was studying in a castle in the tiny village of Well in Limburg, The Netherlands, my father died. He woke up with abdominal pains and was rushed to the hospital. Tests were done, and he was sent home, where he promptly stopped breathing and died in the ambulance BACK to the hospital. I was awoken at 3am Netherlands time, when I was trying to get to sleep to rest up for my trip to Scotland the next day. Within 24 hours I was on a plane home to endure the worst week of my life. This day, when I think about it, makes no sense. And in the background of every frame is the word WHY: WHY didn't he stay at the hospital? WHY did they tell him nothing was wrong? WHY was he having abdominal pains when the final cause of death was a heart attack? WHY do people survive heart attacks every day, and WHY did my dad not?

I suppose this is a normal thing to happen. When you lose someone so close, there are so many questions. It feels so unfair.

1996 or 1997, Probably minutes before he found his treasure.

Today, though, is not to remember this. It is to remember the good times, and the 19 wonderful years that I had my father in my life. All of the times I rolled my eyes when I would turn to him at the end of the movie to see tears streaming down his cheeks, all of the hikes we took through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, digging for Herkimer diamonds, his really bizarre and random-seeming Christmas gifts (I got toothpaste one year), camping on the island in Delaware with all of the wild horses, the "secret recipe" dishes my brother and I had to wince through... these are the things to remember today.

Oh, and these baked beans. These were something he COULD make... kind of. He'd take about four cans of baked beans and add maple syrup, bacon, and brown sugar to them and they were a picnic staple every summer. I decided to try my hand at making baked beans from scratch, inspired by his additions. My cousins called them "Uncle Erik's Special Baked Beans"


The picture in this photo is from one of my favorite memories of my father: The day he pulled the biggest Herkimer diamond out of the ground. Herkimer diamonds are quartz crystals that come out of the ground looking like cut diamonds. My family would camp here every summer. On this particular day, the three crystals pictured were found. The smallest by my mom, the middle one by me (I found it in a river while playing with tiny boats I made), the biggest by my Dad. It was his treasure, and one of the many things I took from his apartment after he died to remember him by.

Uncle Erik's Special Baked Beans, or, My Dad's Special Baked Beans
(Base recipe from here, additions by Dad)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs (3 cups) dried small white beans, or navy beans
  • 1/4 pound bacon
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (REAL, please)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 sautĂ©ed chopped onion

Soak beans overnight. Make sure there is plenty of water, they will soak up more than you think. Drain beans and rinse off. Put beans into Crock Pot or slow cooker.

Add all ingredients and stir together well. Cover Crock Pot and cook 6-7 hours on high, or 10-12 hours on low (check after these times--my beans took nearly double this). Cook until the beans are soft and the sauce is rich. Add water to the Crock Pot, if needed.

Erik S. Blom, 6/11/1960-9/20/2007. Never forget how much you are loved.
Also, I would like to point out that today is not all sad--I do have a fantastic stepfather who came into my life about seven years ago. My Dad thought he was a great guy, and I think he'd be happy to know his family is being well taken care of. Brian is my friend and very much like a dad to me. It's hard to not have my real father take up most of my emotions for the day, considering he was taken from me so suddenly, but I wanted to make sure I also took the time to mention my amazing stepfather as well. In stark contrast to my Dad, Brian is actually a fantastic cook, and I hope to get one or two of his recipes and do a similar blog about our relationship in the future. Like my Dad though, Brian is also a big teddy bear (despite coming off with a bit more of the demeanor of a grizzly) with an even bigger heart. I am very lucky to have him in my life as well.


Again, Happy Father's Day to all. Go hug your Dads today.

13 comments:

  1. Awww this is such a sweet post. *hugs*

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  2. Wonderful post and tribute to your father. Thank you for reminding us all to appreciate the time we have with our Dads :)

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  3. i am so sorry to hear you lost your dad. what a special post for him and all of us.

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  4. what a sweet post, here's to your Dad, great blog and so well written - Rebecca

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  5. This is such a beautiful piece of writing. He sounds like he was a pretty amazing man.

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  6. What a sweet tribute to your Dad! I'm sorry about what happened to him. You have some great memories.

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  7. Your post was so beautifully written and brough tears to my eyes. What a great tribute to him!

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  8. What a lovely post. Delicious beans, too...

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  9. Oh chica I am so eternally sorry for your loss and can't even begin to imagine how you feel. But this is such a beautiful post and I know he's smiling down on it.

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  10. What a beautiful tribute to your dad. Thank you for sharing the memory with us. And those baked beans sound terrific!

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  11. I am so sorry to hear about that, but so glad that you have such positive memories. I have to say, home made baked beans are one of my favourite things to eat. Some crunchy toast and fresh basil Yum!

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  12. Oh Ashley, what a beautiful post! I'm so sorry to hear about your dad, he sounded like a wonderful man and worthy of such a heartfelt tribute. I now see the connection with the Herkimer diamonds. You absolutely need that vodka! It's a must!

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  13. I always cook my navys before I put them in the crock pot. About an hour - simmer. That way they don't take 14 hours in the baking mode. This is a recipe like my mom made. We would scoff it down with brown bread baked in large coffee tins.

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