My father didn’t understand the problem – or maybe he did.
At 95 years old, he doesn’t do much cooking. He can manage coffee and toast but there’s no need for an oven.
But Marge, who is 87, loves cooking. Theirs is a great match in more ways than one, but it’s especially good when it comes to cooking. She likes doing it and he likes her cooking.
An oven is one of those necessities for Marge. From its recesses emerge her famous pecan pies and, if it’s the season or she still has some Georgia peaches in the freezer, the peach pies are sublime.
“It doesn’t work,” she said, for perhaps the fifth time since I’d arrived at Springfield Center, not far from Cooperstown, N.Y.
“Well, we can get it fixed,” my father answered.
“No,” she said emphatically. “We’re going to Lowe’s tomorrow to get a new one.”
Marge knew what she wanted. She was set on an electric stove because she has an aversion to gas and because she was certain the oven could be better regulated. When the gas oven worked, she said, its temperature fluctuated, although I thought her pies always came out perfectly. And she didn’t want one of those stylish stoves with the glass top, either. She has been told those tops didn’t get hot enough for canning and, heaven knows, Marge is great at canning, too.
And then there is my father. The thought of throwing anything away that has a possibility of working again is anathema to him. He’s lived his life that way and things weren’t about to change now.
So, which would it be? Keep the old stove or give up pecan pie?
That wasn’t much of a choice for me, but for someone who grew up during the Great Depression, this was a different matter. It was a decision on whether to throw out something that could be of value.
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I wonder if the same could be said about his checkbook.
Upstate New York is like some sections of the West, where people don’t think twice about a trip of a half hour or longer to get to a big box store. Of course, it’s different here in Rhode Island and Lowe’s figured that out ages ago and built two stores in Warwick. People in Greenwood couldn’t be expected to drive three miles to Cowesett, and visa versa.
The Lowe’s in Herkimer, however, is an oasis in the Mohawk Valley. They stress that delivery of appliances is free within a 75-mile radius, a sure clue to the distances people there are willing to travel. Free delivery was another arrow in Marge’s quiver of reasons for a new stove. But delivery wasn’t on my dad’s mind when we arrived at the blue and gray emporium with a phalanx of lawn tractors lined up outside the doors. The place was humming with sales associates in red vests, attentively serving customers.
“What are we here to buy?” my father asked, a hint of a smile crossing his lips. Certainly he hadn’t forgotten; most of the drive had been spent on the subject. Marge paid no attention and I was with her. I could imagine the aroma of those pies.
We arrived at the display and Marge got down to business. She had her tape measure, just to make sure, regardless of the measurements on the tag.
Sheba, I don’t know her last name, gave us the scoop.
“We have a special sale going on.”
The stars were lining up for Marge. Fifty dollars instantly melted off the Whirlpool range. The price on the GE was $10 more.
Sheba pointed out the differences – the traditional straight lines of the Whirlpool and the curved features of the GE. The window to the GE oven was arched, to repeat the curvature of the back panel. Aesthetics was not on my father or Marge’s mind and Sheba could see it wasn’t a consideration.
She recited the oven areas of the two stoves and the GE was bigger. Marge was sold but not my father, although I suspect he knew he was beaten.
“Why do we need a new stove?” he asked again.
“The old one doesn’t work,” Marge reminded.
“You should be happy,” was his answer.
Marge was speechless. Sheba was wondering if she would lose a sale.
“Yes,” my father explained. “You won’t have to cook. We’ll have to go out for meals.”
We all laughed.
“I know why you brought me along,” he added, “to sign the check.”
He was right. Marge filled in the amount and pointed to the line for his signature. I suggested they wait in the car while I finalize the transaction. I got a strange look when I handed over the check and the paperwork with the scan code.
“Do you have some identification?” the cashier wanted to know as she examined the check. I explained it was my father’s.
I wanted to say, “In the getaway car,” but held my tongue.
“I need a license or something,” she insisted.
I tried to make light of it. “He’s 95, you better hope he’s not driving.”
I got a cold stare. This wasn’t going anywhere. Maybe my father would keep the old stove after all. More customers joined the checkout line. Nobody looked happy.
“Let me see what I can get,” I said, heading out to the car. My father fished in his jacket and pulled out his wallet. Marge handed over his license. Inside, the line had dissipated, but the cashier was still waiting. I handed over the license.
“This is Connecticut,” she said, holding the license, “and this in New York,” she said, showing me the check.
She wasn’t budging, but Sheba came to Marge’s rescue. She gave her stamp of approval. The stove would arrive in two days. I delivered that news to Marge. She was beaming.
My father was contemplative.
“Who can we give the old stove to?”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him it would probably be scrapped.
“Someone will need it,” he said.
“It will find a home,” I assured him.