Onion Soup

4 large yellow onions, sliced
3 Tbsp butter or safflower oil
1 quart vegetable stock
2 cups tomato or V-8 juice
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp tarragon
pinch of thyme
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp brandy (more if desired)
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup parmesan or Gruyère, grated
6 to 8 slices French bread, toasted (optional)

Gifts from My Father

About eighteen months ago, my father learned he had a rare kidney disease that would progressively, inevitably so wreck the various organs of his body that one of them—heart, liver, lungs, brain, blood vessels, skin, the kidneys themselves—would fail, and he would die. Intellectually, he accepted the fact he was going to die. He did not rage against the dying of the light—rage is not his style—but neither did he offer to help reduce the wattage. He prepared for death in a way I found completely characteristic.

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