Just one more piece...

“Well? What do you think?” Mom prodded. Dad chewed thoughtfully on a bite of the pecan pie (his favorite) that my mother, his young bride, had baked specially for him. It was her first attempt at pie baking. With little cooking experience, Mom was eager to please, and anything but confident. Dad furrowed his brow. “I don’t know. I think I need a little more, just to be sure,” he said with a straight face. Mom jumped up and rushed to cut him yet another piece.

As Dad tucked into the second, large piece, he kept his best poker face firmly in place. Mom fretted. “Well?” she asked again. He looked up, nary a crumb left on his plate. He smiled. This was the woman he had fallen head over heels in love with the moment he laid eyes on her. He proposed not twenty-four hours after they met, unwilling to let her get away before he made his intentions clear. She agreed that getting married was, indeed, a great idea.

“Do I have to eat a third piece to convince you?” he asked. Light dawned on my gullible mother, and she playfully swatted at him. I grew up with this story, told and retold, usually by Dad. Mom always laughed right along with the rest of us. The “pie story” was one that he continued to retell even after Mom was gone, usually when there was a particularly delicious dessert put in front of him. With each telling his eyes got that characteristic twinkle as he said, “I think I need to have a little more just to be sure.” It was his shorthand way of recalling the entire story.

Dad shared many other stories that I recorded and assembled into a book for our family. I was just about ready to go to print when my sister gave me a box and said, “There are some letters in here that Dad wrote to Mom, but they’re pretty mushy.” Upon opening the letters, I knew they (excepting most of the “mushy” stuff), needed to be included in his book. I brought Dad the letters, hoping to receive his permission to share them.

When he finished reading the yellowed pages, he said, “It was just like I was writing them to her again.” My heart ached. All through those letters he’d repeated the theme, “We’re apart for now, but soon we’ll be together, as we should be.” Separated by death for twelve years, for one night he was able to feel like Mom was a college student, still in her dorm room in Tallahassee, while he was a young man, writing in his bedroom in his parent’s house in Miami.

If I hadn’t been putting his stories together, I probably wouldn’t have come across those letters, nor thought to give them to Dad. For one night, as he read through his long-forgotten thoughts, he and Mom were just as they had been. Dad lived long enough to see his stories (and his letter) in print. And now, he and Mom are together again, just like they were meant to be.

I miss hearing my dad say that he needs to have another piece of pie, “just to be sure.” But the other night, my husband caught me off guard. I’d made a blueberry crisp, dished him up a generous serving which he promptly polished off. As I gathered up our dishes he stopped me. “I think I need a little more…just to be sure.” I checked. Yup, there was the twinkle in his eye, just like Dad’s. And suddenly I was transported, hearing Dad insist once againthat he needed “a little more, just to be sure.”

Five Languages At Lunch
Zina and Gale Hanks


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