As Father’s Day approaches, I am remembering my father-in-law, Ron. I met my husband, Bob, when I was 20 and over the years Ron became like a second dad to me. I am truly fortunate to have two incredible men as fathers in my life.
Ron passed away two years ago from ALS. When he was diagnosed, he never asked, “Why me?” but rather, “Why not me? I’ve lived a full life.” I can’t tell you how inspiring his positive attitude is to me. When life handed him ALS, he chose humor and dignity as his response. Ron lived life in the moment, appreciating every day what he could still do instead of what he could not. The more time passes, the more I appreciate how well he lived his life, with such grace, optimism and humor.
He was kind, respectful, and took a deep interest in everyone he met. He always treated everyone with respect (to this day, Bob says he still can’t boo a rival sports team). Ron had a way about him that I often thought of as a quiet competence. He got things done, and you felt lucky to be a part of it. He showed his caring nature in many ways, sometimes unbeknownst to the recipient.
Just one story: Right after college, Bob and I attended a friend’s wedding. The party was lots of fun with friends, dancing and music. My champagne glass was always full and I nibbled quite a few liqueur infused strawberries, perhaps too many. Definitely too many. We were staying with Bob’s folks for the weekend, and when we arrived home late from the festivities, his parents were still up and playing backgammon. As we chatted about the wedding, it became clear I was not feeling well and I quickly said good night. Very quickly. I was horribly embarrassed and wondered what his folks would think of me. When I hesitantly appeared at breakfast the next morning (with my head pounding), Ron shared a story from his Navy days involving his buddies and a big party and a lot of Scotch. I can’t tell you how much more relaxed I felt. Years later, I learned that Ron had made the entire story up on the spot – he could see how I was feeling and conjured it up, all so his son’s 22 year old girlfriend would feel more comfortable
Ron’s favorite candy was peanut clusters, in particular the milk chocolate clusters from See’s Candies. I smile whenever I see See’s and think of Ron. Of course, I had to make some peanut clusters for Father’s Day. In addition to milk chocolate I also made some with dark. The different chocolates provided a nice contrast with each other – the smooth, creamy, almost caramel tasting milk chocolate against the bitter richness of the dark. I chose salted peanuts to get that glorious salty-sweet taste... heavenly. If you do not have a mini-muffin tin, you can just dollop the clusters directly into mini-muffin cups on a lined baking sheet.
I look at my boys and it warms my heart to see them happily munching on their Grandpa’s favorite candy. Sam and Isaac are fine young men; they are open and loving, accepting and funny, and they appreciate all life gives them. I am proud to see Ron live on in them.
I wish Ron was here to spend a little more time together.
Happy Father’s Day.
Peanut Chocolate Clusters
Makes 28-30 candies
10 ounces good quality milk chocolate, chopped
10 ounces good quality dark chocolate (I used 85%), chopped
3 cups peanuts, roasted and salted
Mini-muffin cup liners
Line a mini-muffin tin with liners and line a baking sheet with wax paper. Set aside.
In 2 small or medium sized saucepans, melt each chocolate separately over low heat. Stir often, and when most of the chocolate has melted remove pans from the heat and keep stirring until it is smooth.
Set aside a small amount of peanuts to use as garnish. Divide the remaining peanuts in half and stir a portion into each of the pans of chocolate. Using a teaspoon, dollop scoops of the chocolate peanut mixture into the mini cups, filling each one. Drop a peanut on top of each chocolate to garnish.
Let the chocolates sit at room temperature for a few hours until they firm up. They can be made ahead and stored in covered tin for a couple of weeks, but they won’t last that long.