Family And Food, Death And Cookies

I've tried to write my blog at least a million times over the past several months. I've gotten a few paragraphs down and then run out of steam. The subjects were always varied, always family related.
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I've tried to write my blog at least a million times over the past several months. I've gotten a few paragraphs down and then run out of steam. The subjects were always varied, always family related. I love having a HuffPost blog so I knew it wasn't that I didn't enjoy the process of creating something from nothing, from searching my soul and then sharing my innermost feelings. But nonetheless I continued to beat myself up about not following through. Was I lazy? Yes! My motto has always been that if I have nothing to do, I do nothing and even when I have something to do, I procrastinate. Was I exhausted? Yes, most definitely! I babysit three long days (and when I say long, I mean ten to twelve hour days) a week for my three-year old granddaughter, have since she was a baby. Was I, at almost 69, still suffering from a fear of success even after owning a successful bakery, writing and publishing a book? Yup, that's me!

It wasn't until the past few days that it dawned on me why I've not been able to go the distance. My 72-year old healthy as a horse, played three hours of tennis several times a week, in addition to attending frequent yoga classes and taking daily beach walks sister-in-law died recently after having been diagnosed with a Stage 4 Glioblastoma six weeks prior. That came on the heels of my 72-year old brother-in-law's death from Mesothelioma, again a health fanatic and avid bicycler, and that came on the heels of my daughter Ruby's, strong as an ox mother-in-law's death at 70 of lung cancer. These were my family, my peers. It felt as though we were dropping like flies. Was I next, my husband? A dear old friend Joe Berger (and writer for the NY Times) said it best when he said "they're killing off our regiment."

In my mind (if not my mirror), my parents (long dead) are my age and I'm if not still a kid, surely no older than my 30's, maybe my 40's. Where oh where did the time go?! Who was that 34-year old woman who had the chutzpah to leave a secure (if not happy) sixteen-year (twelve years married) relationship with a five and three-year old in tow with no job, no prospects, very little money and only a determination that if I stayed, I'd go crazy and if I left, I (and my daughters) would find true happiness. How can Ruby's five-week premature birth be almost forty years ago, her traumatic brain injury over twenty? I remember vividly my crashing disappointment when I realized my baby couldn't be born at home as was planned. I can still "feel" the gut-wrenching pain of her three-day labor and then two and a half hours of pushing. I can call to mind and even relive the horror in excruciating detail the days and nights living in the hospital with Ruby willing her to wake up from her coma. And Violet's three summers in France with her best friend starting when she was 8--how could that be thirty years ago (and how could I have let her go off to Europe and stay with people I'd neither spoken to nor met!)? And her co-starring role in Goodfellas in 1990 when she was 10, over 25 years ago--I was 39 and I can still recall my nervousness when Marty Scorsese came into Violet's trailer to introduce himself to me. And how in hell's name did I get to be this old and how much more time do I have? I'm not a fan of the delusional notion that only people in their 70's espouse--that 70 is the new 30, 40, 50 or 60--70 is 70 is 70, the end being a lot closer than the beginning, the finish line in sight. I've been terrified of dying ever since I was a kid when my older brother told me that if I could see the clouds moving, I was dead. Older age has only turned my terror into panic. What would my bucket list look like if I weren't too scared to face death--probably learning how to drive stick shift, graduating college, learning a foreign language--all attainable goals (at least for someone far more motivated than myself), for sure, but probably, alright never, will happen. Surprisingly, I'm okay with that. If that is the total sum of my regrets after seven decades of living, I think I've done good.

So when I contemplate the recent deaths of my loved ones, I can only say a Hail Mary or more appropriately, an "Oy but for the grace of God go I" and live every day as though it's not my last (I've never been a proponent of living everyday to the fullest anymore than I bought into the notion of quality time over quantity time when my children were growing up), that I will be afforded the luxury of seeing my grandchildren grow to be healthy, happy, successful adults, preferably not young adults, maybe if I'm really really lucky, middle-aged adults, that I will try everyday to cherish every moment, the good, the bad and the ugly.

When I'm feeling scared, bored, lazy, lonely, exhilarated, industrious, sociable, when I need to nurture those I love, nurture myself, I cook, more specifically bake. I bake chocolate chip cookies. I have a cookie jar in my kitchen that is filled with chocolate chip cookies my grandmother baked for me a year before her death in 1976. Considering the fact that they're 40 years old, they look exactly like fossilized chocolate chip cookies--no mold, no odor, just really old cookies. Without realizing it at the time, my Nana was my inspiration for opening my chocolate chip cookie shop Ruby et Violette in 2001 (which I sold in 2006 and is still running strong).

What I've come to understand is that what matters to me, what drives me and has driven me since I became a mother in 1977 is creating a legacy of memories for my children and grandchildren, a legacy I can live and die with and most importantly be proud of--that I was a devoted, loving, generous, funny, giving (pushy and bossy, judgmental and grudge-holding, too) wife, mother and grandmother. I do believe I've succeeded.

Lemon White Chocolate Chunk Cookies (excerpted from the N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine, The Sweet Spot, 10/27/2002)

8 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 cup dark brown sugar, ½ cup granulated sugar, 2 large eggs, 2 cups plus 3 tblsp. all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. salt, ¾ tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. pure vanilla, 1 tblsp. pure lemon oil, 4 cups white chocolate chunks (preferably imported)
Preheat oven to 350 deg. Place softened butter in bowl of stand mixer (or use hand mixer) and whip until fluffy. Add sugars and beat until fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs, one at a time until completely mixed.

In separate bowl, mix flour, salt and baking soda. Add to butter mixture at low speed and mix until just combined. Add vanilla extract and lemon oil and beat on medium speed, scraping down bowl until blended. Do not overmix.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop tablespoons of batter 2 inches apart and bake, turning tray once, until golden brown around edges and soft (but not bubbly), about 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack.