You’re Not Alone: Beginning to remember the good times
“I look forward to the day when images of my loved one’s life are no longer associated with the event of my loved one’s death.”
– Martha Whitmore Hickman
I read that quote a few weeks ago and it has stuck with me. In moments of complete logic and clarity, I realize how draining grieving and mourning can be. The pain of my father’s death is not so harsh all the time; it’s more of a dull pain. I can also go for days now without crying or having feelings of overwhelming sadness. I am beginning to remember my father’s life – the good times.
I went through quite a few pictures of my father and with every one there is a story, usually a lengthy humorous tale. I came upon two pictures, paused, and started laughing. It was that type of laughter where all the memories of that one captured moment remind you of a great story. It’s the type of story where you think, “Who does that?”
The pictures were of the legendary cake fight (Kuchenschlacht) of 1973. In my mind, I remember the story in German because I was there and the story was always told in German. My father was sitting with his older sister, Lotte, her husband Karl, and a dear couple from Austria: Fritz and Finnie. I don’t know how I remember the Austrian couple’s names, but I’m glad I do.
My father still had very dark hair and was sporting those Elvis sideburns. He was so happy to be in his hometown again with his siblings and friends. The day turned into night with much food, wine, song, reminiscing, and laughter – so much laughter. Finnie brought out a cake she had made. These were the types of cake made by hand; no Kitchen Aid, everything made from scratch, and rather time-consuming to prepare. And they were delicious.
Finnie placed the cake on the table and was ready to start slicing pieces for everyone gathered. My Uncle Karl picked up the cake, holding it in one hand, looked at my father, and said, “Dare me.” I did mention libations had been served throughout the day and night. My father started laughing and said, “You’re not right.” So it began. My Uncle Karl stuck his hand into the cake and pelted a chunk at my father. Momentarily stunned, everyone started laughing. My uncle put the mangled cake on the table and my father took his chunk and pelted it back. Everyone joined in. There was cake everywhere; on the walls, the furniture, and in my father’s dark hair.
Finnie picked up the cake plate and said it would be a shame to waste what was left and started eating the mangled parts off the cake platter. Then, she passed the platter and everyone took a bite of what was left amidst such hearty laughter. When they were finished with the cake, Finnie started wiping the mess off of my father. She said, “A good hostess always cleans up.” I remember them all laughing near tears throughout the evening.
Although I always laugh thinking about that cake fight, I also always wondered why they did it. This was the generation that had survived WWII. They knew hard times. They truly understood hunger, not because it was past lunch time but because there was no food. My generation was taught by theirs to never waste anything. I didn’t have the nerve to ever ask my father why they “wasted” this cake. Maybe they did it because they finally could.
One picture. One story. One of many great memories of good times. I look forward to many more days of remembering my father’s life. He certainly has quite a few stories to tell.
My healing journey continues. Join me. I’ll bake a cake from scratch. But we shouldn’t waste it, well, not all of it anyway.
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