postcard-from-l-a: With my wife on the mend, I’m working to return our house to semi-chaos

Ding-dong! With Mom on the mend, the kids have to fend for themselves while coming up with a replica of the world’s first door bell.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

For dinner, I’m prepping some Balkan-style small plates. Not even sure what “Balkan-style” means, but I ran across the term in one of my wife’s cooking magazines, while searching for new ways to burn a decent steak.

“Balkan-style small plates” seemed edgy and of the moment. In L.A., if you’re not a little ridiculous, you hardly even exist.

As always, I pour myself into every little task.

“Whatcha doing, Dad?” someone asks.


“Ruining dinner,” I say.

“Smells like it.”

“Thanks,” I say. “It’ll be overcooked soon.”

Turns out that nurturing Posh back to health eats up a lot of my free time. I’d planned to spend this spring distilling my own rye and gaming the pork bellies market. Or listening to my extensive collection of Air Supply masterpieces.

“I know just how to whisper,

And I know just how to cry….”

Instead, I’m on laundry duty, dog duty and spend an inordinate amount of time banging around the kitchen, trying to return the house to the sort of semi-chaos to which we’re accustomed.

Donated dinners pour in every other day, and our friends have been extraordinarily generous. We’ve had shepherd’s pie by real shepherds. And the chicken dish that Nancy brought might well validate the existence — after all she’s suffered — of a benevolent God.


Still, there are lunches to make and dinner clean-ups, and just when I think I’m ahead of the game, Posh asks for a little more soup, please.

“Sure, kid. But don’t make it sound so damn easy,” I mutter while spooning out bone broth and barley that a friend made.

Admittedly, my cooking lacks sophistication. There is a little piece of shell in every fried egg, and the bacon is either too crisp or leafy soft, like lettuce. When I boil ramen noodles, a dish so simple college kids make it, I have to read the instructions every time.

As I tell the kids, butchering meals isn’t a chore, it’s a privilege. If they choose to eat them, all the better. They just need to consider the possible consequences. Such as dysentery.


“This is really good, Dad,” the older boy lies.

“Wait till you taste my Balkan-style beets,” I tell him.

We’re determined to reduce Posh’s Stage 4 cancer to the occasional cough. Won’t be easy. The initial labs came back very good, but then her white cell count dipped so low she had to skip a chemo session.

Her stud oncologist explained that cancer surgery is easy compared to the witchcraft of chemo. As with anything a doctor says, I just nodded in agreement.


Some TV journalist named Spud will shove a microphone in my face and ask: “As a parent, did you really think this through?”

I guess this is a roller-coaster we’ll be riding for a while. Fortunately, Posh is surrounded by warm meals — some of them mine — and her beloved children. Some of them might be mine as well.

Just kidding, none of the kids are mine. They are too cute, too funny — though every once in a while they botch something so severely that I think they might be carrying some of my DNA after all.

The little guy just finished a school project — a crude version of the very first electric door bell — that turned out looking like the bus bomb in the movie “Speed.”


I told him to dress it in one of his mother’s nice sweaters. Otherwise, when he carries it on campus, I fear that SWAT teams will deploy, and Sandra Bullock will be brought in to disarm it.

On the news, some TV journalist named Spud will shove a microphone in my face and ask: “As a parent, did you really think this through?”

“I’m pretty sure they’re not even my kids!” I’ll confess.

The only kid who even resembles me is the 300-pound beagle. The younger daughter is too beautiful, and the older boy too tall and witty.


School projects aside, the little guy has way too much hand-eye coordination to be my son, to the point where he can actually hit a golf ball straight. He’s like a freak that way.

Then there is the lovely and patient older daughter. That one might actually be mine.

The other day, the older daughter broke into tears when reminded that the great Vin Scully wouldn’t be in the Dodger broadcast booth any more.

“Dad, I think we need to move,” she said, and wasn’t remotely kidding.


That’s just the sort of blurty emotional outburst my ancestors are famous for, an overreaction to simple everyday challenges that got them permanently kicked out of southwest Ireland.

I could not have been more proud.

Twitter: @erskinetimes



Posh and the hummingbird both soar

If I don’t pay the medical bills, I could lose the house? Good

He wanted the honeymoon suite. He got chemo bay No. 8


Readers reach out after cancer diagnosis