I load $164 worth of groceries into my car. I’ll take Shepherd’s Pie to pass for my Monday night writing group, and the hens will gobble up our kitchen scraps. Otherwise, my husband and I will consume the bulk of this bounty in one week.

How has this exorbitant cost and consumption happened the past forty years? In the 1980s, I fed our growing family of five on $93 every two weeks.

Thank God for pantry stretchers like spaghetti, salmon patties, and tuna noodle casserole. I plated our meals from the stove to insure everyone received a fair share. One batch of chocolate chip cookies lasted five days for four lunches with the jar under my guard.

But $164 for two of us? For one week?

Looking for soothing music, I tune in to 90.9 FM. George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue soars as I turn south onto Rochester Road. I see my father standing by his turntable, punctuating vivacious piano notes with his index finger.

Mom would say Dad spent more money on his stereo and albums than food and shoes for his girls. I understand, for we witnessed Mom in the kitchen and living room doorway, dishrag in hand, all but on her knees, begging Dad for grocery money.

Dad would say Mom could whip up something out of nothing, which we knew wasn’t a compliment to her culinary mastery, but his defense to spend his income however he pleased. Kentucky bourbon, for instance.

Much older, wiser, and under the influence of Gershwin’s spell, I don’t resent my bunions. They’re not that troublesome. Food and shoes are perishable. Every week or so I must buy more groceries. Every year or so I must shop for shoes. What we moderns call the cost of living.

Music, the purest language other than birdsong, abides forever. Gershwin knew that. I like to think my father did also.

Halfway home, Dad and I suspend our breath. We anticipate Gershwin’s tender, light as a feather strings, the movement that lifts us into heavenly places. And when the violins begin, with my hands on the wheel, my father and I ascend together through the hallowed door of forgiveness.

I turn onto our dirt road and navigate around potholes. Gershwin’s rhapsody concludes another triumphant march into the future. In the continuous circle of love and melody, Dad and Gershwin depart. They shall return again and again to comfort me until I leave this temporal world.

With thankfulness, I restock our refrigerator and cupboards and prepare chicken stir-fry for dinner. I cannot remember one pair of shoes from my childhood. Yet, the clarinet’s sassy sliding first note of Rhapsody in Blue echoes in my mind.

Dear Reader, my father never walked into a symphony hall or took a music lesson. Neither of us could foresee the dividends I would gain from the purchase of his album. I consider his investment a marvelous gift of God’s grace.

I would say sustenance in the truest sense. Worth the cost.

Email Iris at irisleeu@sbcglobal.net.