I do not have a recipe for you today, though I will have one for you soon. First, I must tell you a story about a pen. I wasn’t planning on telling any pen stories, because who tells stories about pens? But then I started writing, and this is what needed to come out. A story about a pen.
Or maybe it’s just a story about loss.
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I lost my favorite pen two days ago. When I left my clinic the evening before, I had left it there, on accident. I knew that it was there; I realized it as soon as I walked out of the building to head to my office, in another building. I stopped walking when I thought of it. I paused on the sidewalk, and patients who were leaving their various appointments had to walk around me.
My pen, I thought. I should go back for it.
But…no. Who goes back for a pen? That would be ridiculous. I would not go back into the building, up the stairs, through the clinic space and into the doctors’ workroom…just for a pen. I would have gone back for my wallet, or my ID badge, but not for a silly pen. So I did not go back.
“But I don’t LIKE strawberry sweets,” said Oliver, a scowl coming over his face. He stomped his feet for emphasis, and the swinging of his arms and whiny pitch to his voice heralded the potential for a tantrum. He had been asking me to make a chocolate cake for the past two weeks. He prefers chocolate.
I prefer chocolate, too, but we had strawberries. Lots and lots of strawberries.
If our family of four were to – hypothetically, of course – stop at the drive through at Steak ‘n Shake for milkshakes, there would be two orders of strawberry shakes and two orders of chocolate shakes. Oliver and I would have the chocolate ones. We would all have whipped cream on our shakes, though. On the issue of whipped cream, we are all four in agreement.
And, if the Easter Bunny were to come at Easter, two of the humans in my home would prefer to receive jelly beans – the husband and the daughter – while Oliver and I would hoard the chocolate, stashing it away in our secret spots to enjoy quietly, sparingly. This year, I’m hoping the Easter Bunny will bring See’s Chocolates, for those are some of my most favorite chocolates. And Oliver’s too, by default. We are chocolate-type people, that’s just how we’re made.
I baked a pie on March 7th, the day of my father’s funeral. It was four weeks before I cooked or baked again.
I went back to work four days after Dad’s funeral, and I know now that that was probably too soon. I should have taken another week off, to allow myself to come to terms with my grief. Instead, I went back to work on a Tuesday, one of my busiest clinic days. I entered each patient room with a painful new understanding of what a Hospice referral really meant, and what the impending death — and the agonizing reality of death — of a loved one felt like.
The weeks since have gotten easier, at least on the surface. At night, though, I dream of my father. The content of the dreams varies, but in each one, he is alive again. And in each one, I know that he is going to die within days, and that I will have to go through his death another time. I know that some people find comfort in dreaming of deceased relatives, but at this point in the process, I would just be grateful to not dream at all.