A Story and a Recipe

By Dorothy Johnson


This is the last installment of my “Travels with Lizzie.”  As I explained last week, because of Liz’s progressing disability, she was able to get a van with hand controls so she could still get around. The van had a lift on the passenger side so she just had to put the ramp down, drive her “wheels” on it, raise it to van level, maneuver to the steering wheel and we were off.  The biggest problems arose when the van could not be parked where we had enough room to get the lift in position.

If we did not have enough room for the lift to go down, we had no problem; we just parked somewhere else.  The real problems came when we went to class, and then someone parked a car inside the handicapped zone. Then we were stuck.  I would have to squeeze into the driver’s side of the car, figure out the hand controls, back out of the space and find a place where we could get the lift down.  Some of those times are really funny…now.  If any readers want to know why those handicapped parking spaces are painted as they are, I can help them understand.

One summer we took a class at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. We came down a slight hill on the MacDonald’s side of town and Liz lost her hand brakes.  We sailed across the street and landed with the front of the van in a ditch sort of on an angle. The back end of the van was also on an angle.  I had to parachute out of the van, hurry across the street without getting killed and find a garage that might help us out.  Liz was trapped at the steering wheel.

I did find someone who would come to our rescue, haul the van (and Liz) out of the ditch, put fluid in the brake line and send us on our way. Again this was funny once we were out of the ditch and on our way.  Every trip with Liz was a wonderful adventure after the fact.

Our counselor conferences were held the first weekend in April at the Samoset in Rockport.  This trip gave us a chance to check with all of the men and women we had met while we were going through “the program.”  At the Samoset the largest conference rooms are on the bottom floor.  The sleeping rooms are on the ground level or above.  The resort installed a lift for the handicapped attendees to get from one level to the others.  The resort also has elevators, of course, but the elevator path goes through the kitchen to get to the conference rooms.

As luck would have it, on one day of the conference, the lift broke down.  Liz (and I) had to go to the ground floor, through the bar and kitchen, into the hall and then to the conference room.  We had permission for this tour, but no one had told the kitchen crew.  Imagine their surprise as they were getting their pancakes and eggs cooked and their muffins on large trays to have a lady with a red wheel chair followed by a fat companion trying to keep up with the wheels racing through the kitchen.

The incident that made Liz laugh the most was an incident that I missed at the Bangor Mall parking lot.  She and her husband Roy had been shopping at the mall. He had the lift down and was putting all of the packages into the van.  He told Liz to wait until he had everything in the van.  Of course, Liz could not wait. While he was storing the last of the shopping away, Liz started to drive her wheels on the lift. 
She was about half way on the lift when Roy’s rear end hit the lift button and the lift started to go up. Liz had her front wheels on the lift and as the lift went up, her front wheels went too.  Unfortunately, she could not get off or all the way on the lift so the lift tipped her chair and dumped her in the Bangor Mall parking lot. The chair went over; Liz went over; and by now Roy, realizing what had happened, was shouting, “I told you to wait for me.” Other shoppers thought he was deliberately abusing his handicapped wife and were calling 911. 

Finally Roy calmed down, picked Liz up from the parking lot, got her in her chair and explained to the crowd that had gathered and the police what had actually happened.  Liz was not hurt, but she was sore for several days.  She was also humiliated by the whole event until she could put some distance on it.  Then when she could picture the whole thing, she could find the humor in it.  Roy never did think it was very funny.

Liz passed about ten years ago. By then she had suffered through the debilitating MS, had cancer in two places, nursed her daughter through brain cancer surgery in Boston and finished her career as a teacher and guidance counselor. She made many friends along her journey and in spite of her problems, she always had time for the many students she had in her classes. Liz was an inspiration for all of us and we will never forget her. Please do not look at this as a tragedy.  Liz Love’s life journey was one of the most uplifting that I have ever known …and I miss her.


This week I am staying with the microwave casseroles.  This is a quick dish that can be ready as soon as chefs get home from work and the kids are home from their practices.  This particular recipe is for a Cheese-Tomato- Eggplant Casserole. It was found in Betty Crocker’s Microwave Cookbook.


Cheese-Tomato- Eggplant Casserole


One can (15 ounces) tomato sauce

One medium eggplant (about one and a half pounds)

One-third cup grated Parmesan cheese

One-half teaspoon dried oregano leaves

One clove garlic, finely chopped

Two cups shredded Cheddar cheese (about eight ounces)

Method: Pour one-half cup of the tomato sauce into baking dish, 12 by 7.5 by 2 inches.  Cut eggplant into halves lengthwise; cut crosswise into one-fourth inch slices. Layer one-third of eggplant and one-third tomato sauce in baking dish.  Repeat layers twice. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, oregano and garlic.

Cover tightly and microwave on high (100%) six minutes; rotate baking dish one-half turn.  Microwave until the eggplant is tender when pierced in center with fork, four to seven minutes longer.


Sprinkle eggplant with Cheddar cheese; rotate baking dish one-half turn.  Microwave uncovered on medium-high (70%) until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted, two to four minutes.  Let stand five minutes. Enjoy.