This week, I spent a sad and sweet afternoon at the funeral of a friend. Afterwards, I was emotionally wrung out, but still wanted to tip my hat to Chuck before the sun went down on his burial day. How better to do so than with one of his favorite foods?
Chuck was a proud, lifetime resident of Washington State. He enjoyed a decades-long career in the forest service, and years of camping with his family in the forests he tended. His favorite desserts were carrot cake and the blackberry shakes at Norma’s in Nisqually. These seem like the exact desserts an outdoorsman born in the Puyallup Valley would love. Men like Chuck, born when my dad was, during the Depression, and drafted into Korea, are not salted caramel men. These are not men who order flan. Desserts, for them, shouldn’t feel like a visit to a strange place, but like coming home from one.
Obviously, it is not the time of year when our cup runs ridiculously over with blackberries. My family had already consumed our own frozen stash, so I called on the seasonless magic of my grocery store’s frozen foods aisle. I have not been to Norma’s yet, so for now: berries, French vanilla ice cream, milk, and my miserable, rattling, blender had to do the job. I made shakes for the passle of girls who were rolling around the yard like puppies on that clear, crisp day.
Chuck was 83, and that’s a long life, a good long life, and yet…ah well. He had been a widower for 7 years, and missed his wife terribly. Still, his life was full of giving and doing. I won’t try to describe him here, only to say that I cannot imagine a person being more sorely missed.
I told his – and my – Pastor that we should offer to take his 1970’s truck off his children’s hands, take it apart, and reassemble it in the entryway to the church. The back could serve as a garden box for some of the saplings that were available at his service, to plant in his memory. When it comes to love, why not go straight for the extravagant gesture? We only have so much time. Or so little.
Here’s to a man who was gifted at the art of friendship. I will miss him with my whole, aching heart.
This post is dedicated to Sandy and Jeff, two children who loved their father, extravagantly. Thank you, a thousand times, for this picture of Chuck and Molly. You must have known how much I wanted it.