Like many people of the generation who lived through the Great Depression, Annie Laurie Paschal was an intensely frugal woman.
The wife of a farmer and school maintenance man who raised eight children in rural Columbia County, my grandmother squeezed every penny until Abe's eyes watered.
She hardly threw anything away. Slivers of soap were pressed down and made into cakes of soap that looked like souse meat, and scraps of cloth were saved and knit together for utilitarian quilts.
During the week, leftovers from meals were saved in the refrigerator, usually making an encore appearance at lunch the next day. If even a spoonful or two remained by Friday afternoon, it all went into a big baking dish with whatever additional ingredients were available and baked for dinner.
On many occasions I saw my granddad scoop up a forkful, smack his lips like a stage actor and ask, "What's this?" Her answer, as frugal as her cooking: "A casserole."
We'd eat it anyway. Like last weekend's weather, it had a little bit of everything, and was soon gone.
My recent experience with CSRA in Scrubs had a little of everything, too, but I enjoyed it a lot more than Grandmama's Friday casseroles.
The program, set up twice a year at the Medical College of Georgia, is an intensive tour for invited guests who get royal treatment - including monogrammed scrubs.
During the tour I visited MCG's neurology unit, where epilepsy and sleep studies take place and where the gamma knife is used to perform brain surgery.
We also witnessed the daily miracles that take place in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Others on the tour visited the cancer center, saw behind the scenes how the physical plant keeps the lights on, and tried their hand at the DaVinci surgical robot.
Wherever we went in the hospital, over and over we heard the term "patient-family centered care." Frankly, sunny as I am, I'm enough of a cynic that I believe such a concept was just a catchy marketing phrase for a program designed to save money on nurses by forcing family members into an unpaid role as hospital staff.
But it was a response to a question from another tour participant that gave me a different perspective. She asked about visiting hours, and the response was quick and matter-of-fact: "That's up to the family."
While this was just one incident, this attitude was reflected throughout the day - especially in a session with members of the patient advisory board, where former patients help MCG make decisions about the delivery of care and services to real people.
These people made it clear that they aren't on the board just to be humored; the hospital really listens to their input and reacts on it.
A funny example: After a suggestion from the advisory board, the architect deleted a planned aquarium that would have been in a part of the hospital with older patients.
Why did the advisory board oppose the fish tank? It seems the bubbling water would have made patients on diuretics uncomfortable. That's the kind of stuff you learn by listening.
During a feedback session at the end of the day, one of the participants described CSRA in Scrubs as "a great public relations program."
That's not a bad thing. Just as the hospital demonstrates it listens to patients and families in making care decisions, so is CSRA in Scrubs an opportunity for members of the public to hear some of the amazing things taking place under the hospital's roof.
These days that often means making do with less, just like my grandmother - which makes listening to customers that much more important. There's much less room for error.
After all: Even my grandfather provided feedback, though it didn't seem to have any effect on the menu.
Many thanks to MCG for their hospitality.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.