I have photos of him scattered around the house. I know they are all there and they mostly make me smile. A couple of days ago, I found myself focusing on one unexpectedly. A wave of feeling hit me. The photo isn't that old. He looks so healthy. How could he possibly be gone? That whole feeling is one I continue to struggle with.
I try to remind myself to focus on how lucky I was to have had him in my life as long as I did. He was fun. He took my breath away. He made me cuss. He made me laugh. He was never dull. I was never bored. My life feels way too quiet now. It's hard to get used to.
Rudy wasn't big on birthdays. I threw him a few parties in our early years. He finally made me promise not to do that anymore. The photo below is from 1979. Obviously, the party was a surprise. Look how poor Rudy is dressed. He'd been working all day and was tired and filthy. Why did I think this was a good idea? The guy in the white suit was from Eastern Onion. He delivered a bizarre and embarrassing singing telegram. I have no idea why I thought that was a good idea, either. Apparently, I was just full of good ideas back then. You can't tell from this photo, but there was a pretty good crowd of friends there, as well.
With time the parties ended and so did the whole gift thing. If Rudy ever needed anything, he preferred to buy it. He always knew exactly what he needed and wanted. That worked fine for me, too. We finally realized neither of us were big on surprises.
There was one thing, though, that Rudy always looked forward to on his birthday. His sister, Nancy, would make him a birthday cake. It was always topped with homemade chocolate icing. The recipe was one that has been passed down through the family. We know it as Mommy Effie's Chocolate Icing. Mommy Effie was Rudy's wonderful grandmother.
The icing is a bit persnickety. It requires the perfect temperature and time. Humidity comes into play as well. There's an art to it. Sometimes, it turns out a bit runny. Sometimes it hardens too much and is like fudge. Nancy seems to have a knack for it, but with such variables the iced cake wasn't always photo worthy. If anything, that made the whole experience more fun. It never mattered anyway, because regardless of how it looked, it was always incredibly delicious. There's nothing like homemade!
Nancy would bring the cake over and it would always have a big piece missing from it. My brother-in-law, Mike, was the official taste tester. He'd make sure it was good before Nancy packed it up. I can't believe I never took a photo of one of those cakes. I didn't realize that those cakes would be at the center of such treasured memories. There's a lot I didn't realize, actually.
Effie’s Chocolate Frosting
- 2 cups sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa
- pinch salt
- 1 stick butter
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Combine sugar, cocoa, and salt in iron skillet.
- Melt butter. Add milk.
- When it begins to boil, add vanilla.
- Stir constantly! Boil for 2 ½ to 3 minutes.
- Let cool and frost.
If it boils too little, it’ll be runny; too long and it’ll turn to fudge.