Family, Football, and Chili Cook-Offs by Linda Brendle

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I wrote this late on a Sunday evening in October of 2014. It had been a long day, but a good one. My church had held its Third Annual Chili Cook-Off after the morning service. It was lots of fun, and it was a lot like the family reunions I attended as a child.

Planning for the event began several weeks – or even months – in advance. People who didn’t normally consider themselves cooks pulled out their recipe folders, and if they didn’t have recipe folders of their own, they consulted Mom or Grandma or Uncle Joe who always made the best chili in the world. Discussions were heard in the hallways and parking lot about which cut of meat was best, which secret ingredient was sure to capture the taste buds of the judges, and of course, whether real chili should have beans or not. There was also a little bit of friendly trash talk going on, but it was all in fun.

Although chili was the main attraction, lots of other things were needed to round out the meal. The call went out for Fritos, cheese, crackers, chopped onions, hot dogs for the kids, tea, and lots of desserts. A shopping run was made to stock up on bowls, spoons, and napkins; and tables were set up in the Fellowship Hall to accommodate as many diners as possible.

David and I were among the first to arrive Sunday morning, but when we carried our contributions into the kitchen, there was already an air of excitement and anticipation along with the enticing aroma of simmering meat and spices. Smiles and hugs were exchanged, even between the fiercest of competitors, and there was love.

After a morning of worship that filled our spirits and a fun-filled lunch that filled our hearts and stomachs, David and I hurried home. We finished packing and headed toward Louisiana where we would be spending the week with his sisters, settling his mother’s estate and making decisions about the earthly possessions she had left behind when she had passed away a couple of months before. When we were halfway there, his sister sent us a text.

Instead of going straight to Mom’s house, why don’t you come here first. The Saints play at 7:30, and we’re cooking hamburgers.

When we arrived, the crowd was much smaller than the one at church had been – only six of us – but there was the smell of good food coming from the grill and the air of excitement that football stirs in diehard fans. There were lots of smile and lots of hugs, and there was love.

I didn’t win a prize at the chili cook-off, but it was a really satisfying morning. The Saints won, but even if they hadn’t, it would have been a satisfying evening. All day long there had been smiles and hugs and love; what more could a person ask for.

About Linda Brendle:

Linda began to write as a way of helping herself and others deal with the pain and frustration of family caregiving. Now that her parents are eternally healed, she writes about country life, her feral Kitty, retirement, and her amazingly patient husband David. She also writes fiction.







Books by Linda Brendle:

Mom’s good-bye began with a red photo album and ended fifteen years later in a hospital bed in the Alzheimer’s wing of Southridge Village. This is her story and mine.

My first memoir told of the chaos that happens when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend fifty-three days in a forty-foot motor home. It also told of the years and the life experiences that brought these four people together. After finishing it, many readers asked what happened next. Mom’s Long Good-Bye is the rest of the story.

Based on blog posts written as the events happened, this memoir takes the reader through grieving a continuous loss, some of the initial changes Alzheimer’s causes, the transition from caregiving to assisted living, Dad’s death, Mom’s last year, and the grief and closure of her final good-bye.
Mom’s Long Good-Bye strips away the façade of being the perfect caregiver and gives the reader a look at the denial, the anger, and the fear that come as a loved one loses herself a piece at a time to an insidious disease. Through sharing my own struggles, I try to assure other caregivers that they are not alone, that perfection is not required, and that comfort is real.

A Long and Winding Road by Linda Brendle
A Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos

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