According to several weathered cookbooks on my buckling bookshelf, lovers of custard pie might consider a ‘slip custard’ approach. This method seems somewhat bold to me, requiring a steady hand and considerable pluck. A pre baked pie shell waits expectantly for a filling baked in a pie plate of the same size. When the custard has sufficiently cooled, it is ‘slipped’ into the beckoning crust. This technique does not call to me as I am feeling neither bold nor plucky.
No matter how long you’ve been watching and waiting for the grief train to come rolling down the tracks, when it finally arrives, you find yourself wondering if you’ve boarded the wrong train. Maybe you misread the schedule and your train, the peace train, is really down one flight of stairs, up another, on the opposite platform. The grief train is local, making every stop, refusing you a transfer at the next station. It is the one train I wish I had missed.
A few summers back, I was unable to attend a gathering at my brother’s home in honor of my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary. My father put together a collection of some of his favorite shirts, still in pristine condition. The buttons on the button-down collars were perfectly intact, the 100% cotton fabrics still bright. All of the children, grandchildren and even the great grandchildren donned one of the shirts, gathering together for a photo on an overstuffed sofa. I was otherwise occupied in upstate New York, writing about and thinking about food. When I returned on Labor Day, I made sure to snag one of my father’s shirts. In the last few years, several of those long sleeved plaid shirts have found their way into my closet. I like to wear them to work; the sleeves are long enough to roll back, out of the way of fruit and flour, but offering protection between the gap in the oven mitt and a bare arm. They also feel like a hug.
Every time I don one of my father’s shirts, I think about that photograph. As a family we have been luckier than most, dodging grief for decades. My brother-in-law recently suggested that losing someone dear to you is a little bit like an earthquake. What I have come to learn is that the earthquake takes up residence in your heart. I’m new to the grief game but I believe I can get through this. My father prepared me well.