Earlier this year, my grandfather passed away. It’s never easy to lose a loved one, even when you know it’s coming as their health declines.
He lived a very long, good life and made it until the ripe old age of 90. How do people make it to their nineties these days? He is survived by my grandmother, who is 91.
I’ll go ahead and say it… They were the cutest couple on the planet…maybe even the universe. This past April would have been their 72nd wedding anniversary. I’m serious. The thought of my husband tolerating me for that long seems impossible, but they made it. I can still hear him calling for her in that sweet voice from across the house. “Eloise? Have you seen my billfold?” He was a very hard-working man with a fiery temper and an immensely deep love for his family. He would go over the moon for any of us at any time, especially Grandma. I’ve never seen a man love his wife more than he loved her.
He was a man you wouldn’t want to mess with if you threatened his family. Forget Mama Bear, Papa Bear would tear you to shreds in a second.
Thirteen years ago, I was visiting my parents when my dad had a heart attack. My mom was at the hospital with my dad, and I had come back to their house to take a shower. It was dark outside, and I was alone in the house. After getting out of the shower and drying off, I heard someone knocking at the back door. No one EVER knocks on the back door. It freaked me out. I stayed in the bathroom with the door locked and waited for a few minutes, listening to my heart pound in my ears. After throwing a towel on my head and getting dressed, I bolted into a nearby bedroom to call my mom and see if they were expecting anyone to stop by. “Um, no. You said they knocked on the back door? Are you sure?” I replied, “I’m 100% positive it was the back door. Do NOT tell Daddy, he doesn’t need any more stress on top of all this and he’ll get super paranoid. I’ll keep my eyes peeled and the doors locked.”
What did she do?
You guessed it, she told my dad.
Lord help us.
He started making phone calls to different neighbors, and called my grandparents who lived five minutes away.
Papa was on his way over.
At this point, Papa was in his late seventies, but still walked and rode his bicycle several miles a day. Every day. He stayed active working on the yard and in his workshop, also helping Grandma with their garden. They both grew up on a farm, and he was in three branches of the military. Oh, and he ALWAYS had a pocket knife on him.
He gets to the house and is on high alert. We’re talking about who could have knocked on the unlit back door. A few minutes later, the front doorbell rings. I look over and see a guy from across the street, armed with a smile and a casserole dish. Surely he looked threatening.
Papa whips out that pocket knife, gets a grimaced, teeth-gritted look on his face and starts stomping toward the front door with the knife pointed out to confront the intruder.
“PAPA!!! Put the knife away!!!! Stop!” I cried, and sprinted across the room. Luckily I beat him by a split second, opened the door to the unsuspecting neighbor, with Papa standing behind me ready to cut somebody.
“Hi! We heard about your dad being in the hospital, and my wife made y’all a baked ziti.” Papa still had that knife in his hand, and the neighbor looked at him, slightly puzzled. I responded, “Thank you so much. They’re both still at the hospital, but I’ll take that and put it in the fridge. Did you by any chance come by earlier and knock on the back door?” He said, “Yeah, I came to the front door first and wasn’t sure if the doorbell worked, so I tried the back door.”
I thanked him again and sent him on his way.
As I turned around to look at Papa, with that grimaced expression on his face and the knife STILL in his hand.
“You can put the knife away now, Papa. The baked ziti won’t hurt us.”
For many years, Papa and Grandma would go our family’s farm and pick pecans. And when I say they would pick pecans, I mean like TEN POUNDS of pecans at a time. They would bring them home, shell them, give everyone they knew a large bag of pecans, then pack the rest up and stick them in the freezer.
If only I had a nickel for how many pecans I was offered over the years.
When they moved into assisted living at the beginning of the year, I inherited their freezer that was packed with pecans.
My sister-in-law prepared a huge meal for the family the day of the funeral. All the delicious southern foods you can think of, and she asked if I could make dessert. After thinking about making cupcakes, it seemed only appropriate to make something for Grandma with the pecans she and Papa picked together.
So, here are the cookies.
Thick, soft and fully loaded cookies packed with chocolate chips and those wonderful pecans. We ate them in his honor while telling old “Papa” stories. There was laughter, and there were tears.
It was a beautiful service and we paid our respects to a man we will always miss, and truly cherished the time we had with him.
Rest in Peace, Papa. We love you.
Chunky Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies Recipe
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons shortening
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips + 1 heaping cup chopped pecans
In a small mixing bowl, combine both sugars. In another medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Cut up butter and put in a microwave safe dish with shortening. Microwave for 1 – 1 1/2 minutes, until melted. Pour melted butter/shortening into small mixing bowl with sugars, whisk vigorously until well combined and smooth. Whisk in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Pour into medium mixing bowl with dry ingredients, gently stir together until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Using a medium size cookie scoop (about the size of 3 tablespoons), distribute cookie dough to a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Shape each piece of dough into a disc, place back on cookie sheet. Put cookie sheet in refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.
When ready to bake, pull cookie sheet out of fridge to let dough rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place cookie dough about 2 inches apart from each other on cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until a very light golden color. Remove from oven and let cookies sit on pan for about 12 minutes before transferring to cooling rack lined with wax paper to cool completely.
When cookies have cooled completely, store in airtight container. Best when consumed within two days after baking!