“I walked into work yesterday with a bowl of chocolate cake. Yep. I trotted myself down the hall with a cup of over-priced coffee, a water, my purse, keys, phone – all the while balancing a lone piece of chocolate cake in a white ceramic bowl taken right out of my kitchen. Do you want to know why it wasn’t in a plastic container with a lid like it should be? Because for some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to sell my house, and as I was leaving for work, my sweet realtor and her phenomenal photographer were in my kitchen taking pictures. Which meant all the boxes I have packed up were moved around, some blocking the cabinets and while I thought about leaving my piece of chocolate decadence behind, because who really takes chocolate cake to work in a cereal bowl, I quickly snubbed the idea and placed that white, oval-shaped piece of china right into the crook of my arm and protected it like a newborn baby all the way to my destination.
Because I, for one, am of the opinion that chocolate cake makes everything better.
I’ll give you a minute to shout at your computer screen about how unhealthy this idea is, or how I better not be teaching my kids that eating junk is a good coping mechanism. Maybe you need a few minutes to total up the calories. Maybe you’ve already started typing in the comments about how I must be some kind of crazy, menopausal, sugar-craving fiend. Well, yeah. That last part is actually accurate. About me and most of my 40ish-year-old friends.
But, no matter how you look at it, I like chocolate cake. And yes, it makes me happy. And yes, it brings me comfort. And yes, it helps a bad day get better.
Last year, I wrote an article for this very site about how chocolate cake has affected my life in so many different ways since I was a little kid. I joked about how if my mom came home with a chocolate cake, we kids better steer clear because we knew that cake was a screaming beacon that something went really, really wrong for her that day, but nothing a velvety slice of cocoa and a bath couldn’t cure. And somewhere along the way in my own life, I learned the value of it. Because, it wasn’t really about the cake. It wasn’t about the taste or how the frosting stuck to the spoon. It was about taking a few minutes, just a few minutes out of your messy day to focus on something you enjoy. Because, you deserve that. I deserve that. And nobody gets to tell us what works for us and what doesn’t.
My husband also understood this and in that article, I tell you the story about how on one particularly rough day, I came home to find a whole chocolate cake sitting on the counter. Of course, my whole family was mysteriously missing, but the chocolate cake was perched in just a way that there was no way I could miss it. It caused a smile, then a giggle because after a simple venting session to my groom on the way home from work, somehow he managed to leave me a cake while ushering out the little people that lived in my house so I could have a full hour of quiet, soft music, bubbles in my bath and a sweet treat on my plate. Because he knew it was what I needed, and he loved me enough to just let it happen.
So, when he died way too young, I was suddenly and cruelly tasked with doing it all by myself.
All of it. Overnight, I went from being somebody’s wife to becoming a widow, and a true single parent of three children, one of whom was a beautiful girl who had barely turned thirteen. We walked around, crushed, for a long time. Lost. Lonely. I did widowhood and grief sometimes really well, and sometimes, not well at all. I made huge mistakes. I cried a lot. I was pretty angry, to be honest. I doubted myself, and then every time I failed, I did my best to pick myself back up. And every time I screwed something up, I tried really hard to try again. Most days I didn’t want to. But, I always knew I had to.
And, while I found I was much more capable than I ever thought I was, I would often flashback to a moment in my kitchen when my husband found me in a wrestling match with a jar lid, to which he promptly opened it, placed it on the counter, looked me in the eyes, and with his hands on his hips and a smile on his face said, ‘Who is going to take care of you when I’m gone?’ It froze me. He might have resigned himself to his impending death, but I hadn’t. And thinking about who was going to come ‘next’ was not an option for me. It was not a possibility. It was not even a thought. Nobody was going to come ‘next’ because as far as I was concerned, my husband was not going to die, and therefore, nobody but him would ever be taking care of me again.
But, no matter how hard we fought it, death found him. He was 45. I was 43. We were supposed to be planning our next camping trip, not planning his funeral. We were still young. We still had plans. We were still living a big, beautiful chaotic life with kids. His death was not supposed to happen. I was not supposed to be alone. And no matter how strong I am, I couldn’t help but run the questions through my head. Who will be there at the end of the day to listen to me vent? Who will understand all the stories? Who will help me with the kids? Who will open the jars? Who will help me figure out something when I don’t understand it? Who will laugh with me on a warm Sunday afternoon? Who will BBQ? Who will pick the music? And by God, who will know when to bring me chocolate cake?
Widow brain doesn’t make sense, so please don’t try to figure out why I would question such silly things, but it’s true. At some point, I had this really dumb thought about whether or not I would ever find somebody who understood what the whole chocolate cake thing meant. I’m not kidding. I had thoughts of having to hide in my closet to enjoy my cake and not be judged for indulging once in a while. I just wasn’t sure I would ever find somebody who loved me enough to know what my triggers were, and what soothed my pain.
So, when I woke up to go work a night shift yesterday, some four years after my husband died, I opened up my tired eyes, looked over to my nightstand and there it was. That white cereal bowl with a slice of chocolate cake in it, left there by the one that came ‘next.’ He knew it had been a rough day. He knew I had a ton of stress creeping around my soul. He knew I had too much on my plate and that I was being pulled from too many places from too many people wanting too many things. He knew I was tired. He knew I needed a break. He knew I needed to have five, whole, quiet minutes to just enjoy something that I love. Because he gets it. He really gets it.
He nods and pets my hair when I cry about stupid things. He is learning to understand my neuroticism. He’s learned how to carefully suggest I check my calendar to see if it’s the day to change my estrogen patch. He laughs at my jokes and listens to my stories, and he’s getting to know all the characters in my life. And at the end of a hard day, he knows when to bring chocolate cake. And that, to me, is the sweetest thing I could have ever wished for anybody to do. And yesterday wasn’t the first time he did that, either. When he sent me a text about chocolate cake a few months ago, I thought he knew. I thought he had read the article or maybe I had told him, but he didn’t, and I hadn’t. But somehow, he just knew.
So, to answer your question, Chad: Yes. The next one came. He came and he is taking care of me and that sweet girl of yours, who incidentally is now a young woman. He watches out for her. He keeps his eye on her boyfriend.
He came and he did not hesitate to join our chaotic lives. He came and he did not judge. He came and he brought hugs and jokes and giggles and love back to our hearts. And best of all, he came with chocolate cake. Yes, my love, he came with chocolate cake. I’m pretty sure that makes me the luckiest girl in the whole, wide world.
Don’t give up, friends. No matter how lonely, or scared or defeated you feel, your chocolate cake is coming. And, it will be at the right time, on the right day, at the right moment when you need it. From one chocolate cake lover to another, I promise.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “My Kid Is an Asshole, and So Is My Dog” are now available in print and kindle. You can follow her work on her author Facebook page, and Instagram.
Read the first part of Diana’s story:
‘When I was a little girl, we knew if mom came home with chocolate cake, we better shut up. We all knew what cake meant. Something had not gone right, and Momma was NOT happy.’: Woman recalls how late husband always knew how to fix her ‘bad day’
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