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Sour Cream Chicken and Penne is the perfect, delicious, fill-your-tummy-with-love meal to make for someone special.

My parents are settled for the night, Joe’s listening to music and I’m in my corner with the computer, coffee and the looming greatness of putting something beautiful into words. I’ve recounted the images in my mind and pieced it together as the events happened; all the while, a little music is playing in my head, and there’s nothing left but the words — always the hard part.

It may be the exhaustion, may be the raw emotion of wanting to make everything OK, or the sheer beauty in these memories, but regardless, the tears are already spilling and it feels good. I always wondered how could I ever repay my parents for the sacrifice they made raising me. Every single memory, every morsel of food, piece of clothing, essential need, and every single moment that I have lived, I knew I was never alone, I knew I had two people who loved me and would rescue me when I fell into whatever mess or circumstance I found myself in.

And though there is nothing beautiful about watching your parents suffer and decline, there is something complete and worthy when the installments of giving back come due. Life is hard. The requirement of neglecting yourself in order to bring comfort to the ones who gave you life is a daily effort. I want to grieve. I want to ask why. I want to wallow in the hurt.

But I know better. I know that looking beyond this very minute when they’re still here, still showing up, still able to smile, still able to enjoy life, is a waste of precious time. Love has come full circle. I get to gaze deep into their eyes and tell them, “I’m here. You are not alone. I’ve got you.”

Both my parents are recovering from life-threatening illnesses. I know. At the same time. First it was Mommy we were rushing to Cleveland Clinic. She has not been sick in over 30 years. It was sudden and unexpected. Then it was Daddy who said when someone called the house, “They’re taking her away from me.” From there his heart started to fail, slowly. Heartbreaking. Literally.

It’s not about me. But it is. I’m here. Repayment isn’t the right word. It’s my reward to be here, to make a difference, to offer my presence, to smile, to comfort, to be all the things they were to me. I love you, Daddy and Mommy.

I am still cooking. Because food is still surrounded by life. This is our meal for the night. They’re not eating much these days, but it sure makes my heart smile when I see them have an appetite.

Perspective is everything. Two months ago, what I deemed as excitement pales in comparison when I see their eyes light up at the feasts I’ve been cooking for them.

Reach out and love someone. All our days are numbered.

Sour Cream Chicken and Penne

½ pound penne pasta, cooked according to the package

2 tablespoons butter

1 lemon

1 zucchini, cut into ¼-inch cubes

1 package cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 cup mushrooms sliced thin

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons sour cream

1 cup pasta water (reserve from the pasta you boil)

1 flattened chicken breast, sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic

1 onion, chopped

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ cup Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, drizzle the olive oil and saute the chicken for two minutes. Add in the garlic, oregano, onion and vegetables. Saute for 3 minutes. Add in the pasta water and sour cream. Whisk until mixed and heat through. Add in the pasta. Mix well. Squeeze the lemon all over this. Top with Parmesan.

Janet McCormick is the author of “10-Minute Meals” and owner of Let’s Eat in Huntington. She lives in Lawrence County, Ohio. She can be reached at 304-654-2003 or