Here's a story of true love appropriate for Valentine's Day observances: 

Paula King, of Gretna, says, "When my husband and I got married, I did not know how to cook. He asked that I smother a round steak with gravy to be put over rice.

"Well, the meat and gravy was tasty, but the rice was severely undercooked. I could hear him crunching that rice with every chew.

"He told me that was the BEST food he ever ate. I told him he was going to be a GREAT husband.

"We'll celebrate 51 years of marriage this month. Some of our friends refer to him as 'Saint Jerry.'"

Reports of my vacation …

… have been greatly exaggerated.

Pneumonia (more like pneumonia squared) knocked me out for a time, and I spent a week at Baton Rouge General before its medical team (and my personal nurse Sister Katherine) got me up and going. (I trust that the billing department at the General takes into account the considerable value of the above plug for their fine establishment. …)

The Advocate's editors reported I was on "vacation" to allow some privacy, a thoughtful gesture.

But when I returned home and started going over the backlog of emails, I realized how much I missed the daily exchanges with the contributors to this column — those funny, clever, always interesting and often mildly demented storytellers who write this thing for me.

And I realized anew just how lucky I am to do what I do for a living.

OK, gang, enough of that — let's get back to abnormal. …

High anxiety

On my first day out of the hospital, Lady K and I were going over all the discharge papers and came across a description of my illness that contained some terms we didn't recognize.

She Googled them — and got not only too much information, but WAY too much SCARY information.

I was reminded of the line that crops up in just about every B horror movie I've ever seen: "There are things that man was not meant to know. …"    

Special People Dept.

  • Valentina "Rudy" Duckworth, of Slidell, celebrated her 106th birthday Thursday, Feb. 15. She was born and raised in New Orleans.
  • Julia Welles Hawkins, of Baton Rouge, celebrated her 102nd birthday Feb. 10. She is the author of "It's Been Wondrous! A Centenarian's Memoir," about her life as a world-class athlete.
  • Lillian Templet Bouchereau, of Donaldsonville, celebrated her 100th birthday Friday, Feb. 16. Her brother Odon “KiKi” Templet, also of Donaldsonville, celebrated his 97th birthday Friday, Feb. 16.
  • Juanita Foster Stafford, of Covington, celebrated her 97th birthday Feb. 11. She is a former resident of Whealdon Estates in Baton Rouge.
  • Jo Hughes celebrated her 95th birthday Friday, Feb. 16.
  • Edmond "Ed" or "Tim" Labat celebrated his 95th birthday Friday, Feb. 16.
  • Sebastian "Bus" DiPalma celebrated his 91st birthday Thursday, Feb. 15. He is a World War II Navy veteran.
  • Carl Meriwether, of Baton Rouge, celebrated his 91st birthday Feb. 10.
  • Jimmy Varnado, of Baton Rouge, celebrated his 90th birthday Feb. 1.
  • Alvin and Zenola Hall, of Ethel, celebrated their 72nd anniversary Thursday, Feb. 15.
  • Cedric and Theresa Vickers celebrated their 60th anniversary Thursday, Feb. 15.
  • Billie Jean and Oscar Lofton celebrated their 57th anniversary Feb. 12.

Cats being cats

While she was sitting with me in the hospital, daughter Tammy was knitting something, which turned out to be a surprise get-well gift for me.

I found in my favorite chair a beautiful scarf, made with a thread so soft I can only describe it as "buttery."

The weather was too warm for a scarf, so I put it on the couch. A few seconds later, I noticed that Shadow, the cat who shares a house with us, was wrapped up in it and purring happily. As always, he had found the softest item around and claimed it for his own.

I fear we'll have this struggle for possession until something even softer arrives. …

Louisiana haiku

Our Lenten penance

Shrimp, not steak; redfish, not roast

Time to sacrifice 

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Follow Smiley Anders on Twitter, @SmileyAndersAdv.