Mrs. Rowe is tough as hell.
I first met her when she came to the door one day to ask a simple question.
She only lived a house or two away, but if you knew the road, you'd know it was quite the jaunt for this mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and wife to loved one Bill for 53 years before he passed.
She came to the door another time and asked another question. I had a simple answer and that was that.
On the way to church one day, my son and I saw her hard at work in a flower bed, knees on pavement. I said, "Dennis, did you see that?! How can she do that?!!"
By no means is she frail. She's a three-time stroke survivor and determined as all get out.
I first began to get to know her when I had some cucumbers and squash to share. Mrs. Rowe loves squash. Cucumbers, not so much-too much acid.
Little by little I've gotten to know her.
She's feisty and she speaks her mind. I never want to be on the receiving end of having to look into her angry blue eyes. This I know by survival instinct.
Mr. and Mrs. Rowe were hearty meat eaters. By the time they married, she was already an accomplished chef who had proven herself by cooking meals for wheat ranchers at the tender age of 14. Big, hearty, delicious meals.
One of Bill's favorites was chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles.
I remember thinking, "Hmmm. I've got the chicken noodle soup thing mastered, but what's this about homemade noodles?"
After visiting with her, I've learned a thing or two. Not just the interesting facts, like the way she and Bill were perfectly and wonderfully made for each other. Her eyes light up with love at the very mention of his name and he's been gone three years now. I've learned one big thing about how she expresses herself: through cooking those hearty, homemade meals for those she loves.
Last weekend she spent more than three hours with me so I could make the chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles for an ill loved one. Actually, she did most of the work (probably to ensure its quality) while I watched. I even brought along my journal to write every detail down.
The day before making the soup, she had presented me with a little bowl of some she'd already made.
It was heaven.
The homemade noodles absorb every bit of flavor of the chicken. It was hearty-a whole chicken is used to make the batch. This soup put my idea of soup to shame.
I was eager to learn her secrets, and she was eager to teach.
Oh, man, can that woman work! I was scared to "butt-in" and "help."
The end result was a fresh batch my immediate healthy family is having a hard time resisting.
Simply put, I'm in awe of her. And I care about her.
And she cares about me, too, or she wouldn't have said so by standing and chopping, boiling, de-boning, kneading, rolling the dough, slicing, stacking and more slicing, carefully, all the while pausing occasionally to stir.
Our next big adventure we have planned is me learning how to make applesauce and applesauce cake, without a cake mix!
I've got a lot to learn from my older, wiser mentor, and it's not just a pinch of this and a dash of that. By listening closely to her stories about her love for her family, especially Bill, I'm learning a lot about hard work, love and commitment.