I didn’t know life after death would have so much dessert.
My dad became the sweet tooth in the Calcari family, starting after his open heart surgery and continuing through his decade-long journey with cancer. We tried, begged, bargained to get more vegetables and protein into his diet. It was our little sphere of influence to try and keep him on this planet for even a day longer.
He was patient with us, listening, nodding. And then he would firmly push those things aside and swing by BK Bakery to get a cannoli. Or a morning bun from Blackbird Bakery. Or a cream-filled donut from Little Taste of Heaven. He had every bakery within a 20-mile radius wrapped around his finger. Maybe they knew an easy target, or maybe they loved his stories, or maybe they realize he made them feel like they mattered. Each hospital stay, and there were many – for the femur replacement, for the spinal fusion, and then another spinal fusion, for the numerous times fluid needed to be drained from his lungs, for the observations – friend after friend would parade through his room to deliver him some fantastic box of treats. And he would smile his wide, gap-toothed grin, throwing it my way or my mom’s way, as if to say, “look at me, breaking all the rules!”
When Dad entered hospice, we kept trying to do what we do. Food is our family’s love language, as if nutrition mattered at this point.
Dad ate less and less, lighting up most when we offered sweeter options like homemade whole milk tapioca pudding. When we were getting desperate, the nurse let us know that she has really good luck with her patients eating ice cream. So, we settled into a full week of Dad trying his hand at cookies and cream, vanilla bean, and his favorite old-fashioned hand-churned black cherry. We left no stone unturned in the Bill’s IGA freezer aisle.
So when Dad died, the small town heroics began. The Midwest representing. The procession of sugar, the pageantry of Duncan Hines, as if a motorcade of desserts would bring us comfort, would bring our Dad back.
The poke cake with jello, and a can of cherry pie filling on top, because cake plus jello plus whipped cream is not sweet enough.
A warm apple pie
A warm cherry pie
Pina colada cake with whipped cream and shaved coconut, delivered in an embroidered carrying case
Brownies straight up
Brownies with extra chocolate chips and nuts
Blondies, brought over still warm
Rhubarb nut bread
Chocolate chip cookies
Coffee cake stuck in the old beer crate on the porch without a note
Reliable rice krispies
Cannolis and cream horns
Cinnamon rolls drizzled with chunky applesauce
Banana cream pie, surprisingly, with the banana on the side
An inaptly-named fruit salad, with the only fruit being grapes and apples cut up and mixed with marshmallow fluff and whipped cream
Angel food cake, with a noted three extra egg whites to make it tall
And, a peaches and cream pie.
And, we haven’t touched any of them. They sit, stacked and staring at us. Getting cold, going stale, preparing themselves for the birds or the trashcan. All that love, waiting to be received.
I wish Dad was here, because I would finally give in and make him the plate he always wanted.