MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Features

July 3, 2013

Comfort foods with a kick

“The Old Man’s Love Story” (University of Oklahoma Press) by Rudolfo Anaya weighs in at only 170 pages, but packs a powerful punch with the perennial problem of the loss of a spouse in old age. It starts simply enough with the line, “There was an old man who dwelt in the land of New Mexico, and he lost his wife.” Although we never know the main character’s name, we know his heart implicitly. We follow him through the process of working through his wife’s death and the troubling prospect of starting life over in his twilight years.

But rather than a morbidly depressing novella on the grieving process, Anaya crafts a human comedy starring an Everyman, whose loss compounds the daily challenges of living that are shared when one has a lifelong helpmate. Showering is a maybe; shaving is an impossibility; thinking about asking someone on a date, nerve wracking. The old man converses with his wife’s spirit voice as he works through the meaning of life and love at the various stages of a person’s life, from the vigor of youth through declining age.

Here Anaya takes the personal into the universal realm of the human condition. Patricia, his wife of 44 years, passed away in 2010. As a professor of writing at the University of New Mexico, he worked through her death by penning the semi-autobiographical tale. It is a book that, just like life, will make the reader want to cry his eyes out while laughing hysterically. And like life, it is for the courageous who keep putting one foot in front of the other. Look for the film version of Anaya’s classic novel, “Bless Me Ultima,” released earlier this year.

Try these two New Mexican takes on classic American comfort foods.

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