I grew up with a man in the kitchen--my brother--who could, and still does, cook like an angel. Last night though, I met a man who told me about the man kitchen. I thought I knew what a man kitchen was, but apparently, I'd been misinformed.
He was likely a giant of a man at one time with impressive height and enormous hands the size of baseball mitts. These days, his hands are mangled from arthritis, and a multitude of illnesses have robbed him of energy, weight, and, yes, height. He walks well enough, but it takes him several minutes to move from sitting to standing in order to get anywhere. Standing upright is impossible and instead, he motors with stooped posture.
When I asked what he'd done for a living, he told me he worked in a man kitchen where he made steel for a paycheck. He said he adored that job and likened making steel to baking a cake. The recipe must be precise and the ingredients added one at a time until the mixture and great heat produced the perfect cake. Though hot, and grueling, he'd loved his life's work. Loved.
When I questioned this patient about pain, he refused to admit he had any, though to my trained eye, it was obvious he was suffering from some. It was not in his nature to complain. After much gentle prodding, he did admit there was pain that troubled him, but only in the mornings and only for a little while.
It's not often I meet someone so stoic, but I'm sure after serving in General Patton's army in WWII, and then a lifetime in a steel mill, one would learn to live with the obvious and pain becomes an every day fact of life that people like him just accept as normal. This is his price of admission to continued life, if you will.
My hope for this man is the plan I put into motion brings him the relief he deserves without clouding his senses. He has wonderful stories still to tell and I wouldn't want anything that I did bring those history lessons to a close.
While he may not know it, this beautiful human being brought me great joy last night, though I'm quite certain, I may have been the last person he wanted to meet. He was kind, gracious--a gentle giant--and meeting him reminds me why I love what I do for a living, too.
I will never again bake a cake without imagining the man kitchen and thinking of him.