The other night, while cooking dinner, I was surprised when I heard my father humming along with a song on the radio.
Without him knowing, I peeked inside his bedroom door to find him swaying and singing along softly to the lyrics of American singer/songwriter Paul Simon's "Loves Me Like A Rock."
The 1973 classic is a favorite of mine. I loved it the first time it played on the radio, and sang it to my children while they were growing up years later. The words have never left me.
Apparently, they haven't left my father either.
Seeing him with a spring in his step after working a full day "doing whatever he wants in the garage and around the yard" made me smile.
Later that night, after eating dinner together with the family, my father sat at the table with a full belly and began to talk about his life, sharing stories of people he's met along life's 79-year journey.
The smile on his face and laughter in his voice while telling of his comedic adventures was precious. The tears that welled up in his eyes when he spoke of all the friends and family members who have passed on brought me to tears too.
I couldn't help but feel blessed by the time spent together.
As I washed dishes and cleaned the kitchen, my father turned on his CD player to listen to music. He prefers music to television. At first, the familiar sound of country music filled the house. But then he changed the CD, and gospel music wafted into the kitchen.
Please understand, I grew up with the notion my father wasn't a "church-going man," although he believed the beauty and grace of God surrounded us every moment of our lives.
"I find God's peace everywhere, especially while sitting on the riverbank," he used to tell our family when ever the topic of religion came up.
He would attend church during the holidays or special events, but never "inflicted" religion upon anyone.
"It's not my place to force you or anyone go to church," he would say, much to the chagrin of several of our family members. "True belief comes from your own personal search to find God. That way, when you finally find your faith, nothing will ever shake its foundation."
One of the first books my father gave me was a Bible. (He didn't tell me to, but I read every word inside the covers.) That's how I always knew my father was a God-fearing man. There were many times when I saw a level of forgiveness and love within his heart that surpassed that of other "so-called Christians."
Although my father didn't inflict religion on me while I was growing up, I do think it was because of him I have the strength of faith I do.
Peeking in his bedroom door one more time, I heard my father singing the words to Albert E. Brumley's popular gospel song "I'll Fly Away."
With his cat L.B. sitting on his lap, my father's time-weathered voice cracked with each word he sang, but the smile never left his face. L.B. seemed to be smiling too.
I thought to myself, standing there with tears in my eyes, my father, in his own special way, is a consecrated man.
As for a recipe to share today, in honor of my father's choice for dinner that memorable night, here's one for "Tequila Pork Chops." Psst...just don't tell my father about the Tequila!
4 center-cut or butterfly cut pork chops (each about 3/4 in. thick)
1 package of dry onion soup mix
1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, salt and white pepper
1/4-cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine
3 cloves of fresh garlic, pressed or minced
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1/4-cup fat-skimmed chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in water
Salt and ground white pepper to taste
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Dry pork chops with a paper towel before coating with the dry seasoning mixture ingredients equally onto both sides of each chop. Set aside in a plastic bag for at least an hour in the refrigerator before cooking in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat using a tablespoon of butter to coat the pan.
Brown each chop about 6 minutes total before removing to a platter.
Remove pan from heat before adding the fresh garlic and butter. Cook for two minutes before adding the tequila and chicken broth into pan. Return pan to heat and bring liquids to a boil, then, reducing heat, simmer until sauce thickens, about 4 minutes.
Transfer chops back into the pan and let simmer in the sauce until the inside of the chops is no longer pink. (Cut into the chops to make sure of this.)
Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste if needed before serving.
Serve chops with sauce on top along side of mashed potatoes, spaghetti or rice.
NOTE: Mushrooms and/or jalapeños can be added to this recipe. Cook the mushrooms at the same time as the garlic is browned. Add the jalapenos during the last simmer.
Hope you enjoy this recipe. If you want to read more about my father's antics, he's appeared in several previous blog entries, including a few of my favorites: "78 and Going Strong," "A Little Father-Daughter Time" and "Warm House, Warm Soup."