This story is bittersweet because it describes the last meal I shared with my dad. I didn’t know it would be the last time I saw him, and I nearly declined his impromptu invitation.
I’m grateful for God’s love and kindness for allowing me to share a final sweet summer’s night with my dad before he unexpectedly died, and I hope this encourages you to enjoy every moment with those around you.
Dinner cleared, kids in pajamas, it was the end of the day, the part where kids go to bed, and the world stands still, quiet. I didn’t expect more than an opportunity to reboot for the next day. That changed when the phone rang.
As I scrambled to usher in a dose of peace, I swiped to answer my phone and heard my dad’s voice.
“Do you and the kids want to come over for dinner tonight? A client gave me bear meat you can try!”
His childlike enthusiasm was contagious.
Fork in the Road
Depleted from a solid day of parenting, I wanted nothing more than to relax in peace and quiet, but this was my dad. When it came to dads, I’d won the lottery, and I knew it. Aside from my husband, there wasn’t a man I loved more.
My dad proved especially trustworthy during my teen and early adult years. We talked about anything. One early morning my senior year of high school as we drove to the gym, I asked, “If Dave [my boyfriend] and I get married will you still pay for college?” He didn’t flinch. He rarely did. His thoughtfulness shined through his Socratic method, free of guilt and manipulation. When I went to my dad, I knew I would find sound and thoughtful advice, even if it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to hear.
Now that I was a parent, my dad was eager to be where his kids and grandkids were, which is why that night, despite my longing to collapse into bed, I said, “Yes, we’ll be over.”
I don’t often buy whole watermelons, and these days I rarely make my famous apple pie, but that night I happened to have both. I matched his enthusiasm and told my dad I’d bring a couple of his favorite treats along to compliment his bear meat.
A bit confused but excited, the kids helped me load the car, and we headed to my parents’ home. En route, I called my husband and asked him to meet up with us. Even after a long day, an apple pie will coax a quick yes from that man!
Gathered around my parents’ new patio table, we sat comfortably while the kids splashed and swam in their pool. We talked, laughed, and simply enjoyed each other’s company.
Dad pulled out the fresh bear meat, a foreign concept to most Californians, and grilled a portion for us to try. As he told the story of the bear, his child-like enthusiasm, which too often fades with age, took center stage, and he smiled what I call his inside out smile: his love of life on display for all to see.
The sky grew grainy as the sun set, but we continued to linger with the glow of the house lights soft on our faces. We stayed longer than most parents with young kids usually choose, little knowing the curtain would close on even the carefree.
Preparing to Leave
Before we left, I pulled a classic white plate from their cupboard and placed a huge slice of apple pie on it. He didn’t need instructions. After all, he taught me the art years ago, but I gave them anyway.
“Enjoy your pie with breakfast because it’s better than a donut!”
I also covered half the watermelon with foil and found a home for it on the clean refrigerator shelf.
Goodbyes & Hugs
With the goodbye process in full swing, we stood on the brick porch and squeezed in a few more words as we watched the kids jump over planters. Hugs from my dad came straight from his heart, and this final hug was no different. Hearts full, we drove away.
I nearly said no to my dad’s bear meat invitation, but shrugging my fatigue and tossing our schedule was the best yes I’ve ever made.
Five days later, my dad unexpectedly dropped dead. Losing a living legend is devastating, but I see God’s ever-present love in providing such a sweet last supper with family favorites on a summer’s night.
Two years later. I think of my dad daily. I long for his advice and opinions that spoke steadily into my life. I wish for another laugh at corny jokes that only we found funny, but through it all, I choose gratitude. This side of heaven, God gave me an unknown blessing over a final meal.