“When I was a little girl, we all knew if my mom came home with a chocolate cake, we better shut up. Of course, if all us kids could just disappear for a few hours, that was better, but being quiet was a good start. We all knew what chocolate cake meant. Oh, yes. Something had not gone right throughout the day and Momma was none too happy.
My brother would do the recon. You know, sneak down the hall, hide behind the china hutch, peek around the swinging kitchen door until he had an unobstructed view of the counters. He would dart his eyes to the right, then the left, up then down, and reach his neck out to sniff for frosting in case the cake wasn’t in his line of sight. No cake? Life went on. Yes cake? He would silently turn, run down the hall, slide on the wood floor past my bedroom door, fall, then do the army crawl back to my room, push open the door, and with fear and panic on his face squeak out the word, ‘caaaakkkkeeee.’He didn’t have to say anything else. No more words ever needed to be spoken. When we heard the word ‘cake,’ we sat as quietly on the bed as we did when she would tell us to just let her ‘finish the chapter.’ Oh, who am I kidding. We were awful. We never gave that woman any peace. But we did know what cake meant.
As I got older and real life set in, I finally figured out why. Because it’s fantastic. Some people drink at the end of the long day, some people exercise, some people sleep, and some people have a piece of chocolate cake. Yes, clean eaters, I hear you and no I don’t care because there’s nothing quite like sinking your tired teeth into a delectable, sweet, moist piece of heaven when you have had a crappy day. This discovery was nothing short of amazing for me, but I did feel a touch bad for my brother when he realized it wasn’t just our mom anymore who had cake days. I’m pretty sure the first time my mom and I both came home with a chocolate cake, my brother promptly packed his things, moved out and used the excuse of going to college instead of admitting his unrelenting fear.
It never really left me as the years went on. There was chocolate cake available when I figured out adulting was hard, while my kids were toddlers, and when my adult jobs became more responsible and stressful. Over time, I learned if I hid in the closet, I didn’t have to share it with anybody, and if I timed my nightly baths just right, I could even avoid my husband catching me. Just me, bubbles and chocolaty goodness.
Eventually my husband and children understood what it meant in our household when I came home with chocolate cake. They dispersed. They hid in their rooms. They found other things to do. My husband taught himself how to play the guitar. He painted the house once. He tried to groom both of our shih-tzus with the buzzers he used to cut his own hair. Anything to keep busy until the moment passed.
And then one day, I was talking to my husband on the way home from work (who was also at work), telling him about whatever had happened, and that I was rushing home to take our daughter to wherever she needed to be. I pulled into the driveway, she ran out and off I went. Upon coming home the second time, I drug myself into the house and made my way down the hallway to my room. I walked past the kitchen, did a double take, backed up my steps and looked again, past the stove and onto the counter. There it was. I giggled when I saw it. He snuck home while I was gone, dropped it off and didn’t even leave a note – yet there is was. A beautiful, silky chocolate cake to ease the day. He just knew. He always knew.
I’m trying to eat healthier now, so chocolate cakes are fewer and far between, but every now and then, when I’m standing in the grocery store contemplating whether or not I need a slice, I think back to that day when my husband brought that one home and my stomach churns. Not because of the obscene amount of sugar and fat I could be taking in, but because I miss him so much. Man, I miss him so much.
Almost 3 years ago, that man of mine died. He lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. And when he did, I didn’t just lose the man I was married to. No, I lost my person. I lost my best friend. I lost the man who knew everything about me and loved me anyway. I lost the man who was the keeper of my memories and who knew every story. I lost the man who, if I said one trigger word or one person’s name in a fiery sentence, knew what to do and what to say. I lost the man who reminded me of the woman I always said I was going to be. I lost the man who knew how to calm the chaos in my life, who knew how to get me to take deep breaths when I couldn’t breathe, who knew how to comfort me and who knew when to bring home chocolate cake and not say a word. I lost the man who could make me laugh in any circumstances and who could make me smile just by shooting me his quirky grin. I lost the man who understood, everything.
And now, I am left to do life alone. To raise our daughter. To cope with the bad days and celebrate the good days. And in the middle of that, I am so thankful for the snapshots in my mind of a life well lived. I am so thankful for the moments we had. I am so thankful I was the fortunate one who got to be loved by a man like that. I don’t know if I will ever find that again. I don’t know if somebody will ever understand me the way he did. I don’t know if somebody will ever bring me chocolate cake again, but what I do know – is how lucky I was to have had it.
I hope you have that. I hope you have that person who does that for you. I hope you have that person who loves you, appreciates you and who brings you what you need, right when you need it. And if you have it, I hope you see it. I hope you appreciate it. I hope you smile and laugh and take it all in. And on your worst days, I hope you find good hiding places, and the people who love you pick up new hobbies to leave you in piece with your cake. But above all, I hope you have your best friend sleeping next to you at night. Listen to their heartbeat. Memorize their breathing. Trace their scars. Just love them. Trust me, besides chocolate cake, it’s the sweetest thing in the world.”
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.
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