Updated: May 18
The calm part of that last week we all spend in Pittsburgh is the several days in the Intensive Care Unit when I first get there. My dad's closest friends - three couples with whom Mom and Dad are supposed to be vacationing that very week - all come to visit Dad, who makes a point of telling each of them how much he loves them. Michael and Trina Trevay, the owners of my father's favorite backwoods tavern, bring him a pie, home-made from freshly pickled wild blackberries, which becomes my father's very favorite topic of conversation during his lucid moments.
I feed my father the last piece of that pie during the last quiet afternoon that he spends in the ICU. He is particularly cheerful that day, and particularly appreciative of the pie. I cut off each bite carefully for him, wanting to make sure that the last bite would be what my friend Nick always referred to as the "choice bite" - the one (last) bite that includes the perfect mix of one's very favorite parts of a particular meal or dish, like that one last bite of mashed potatoes mixed with corn and just a tiny bit of remaining gravy.
Dad notices that I am doing this, and it delights him as only the carefully calibrated appreciation of good food can. We discover that even though we don't like our pie made the same way (he prefers it somewhat bitter, and I like it sweet), we have exactly the same idea about what makes for the choice bite of a piece of pie: a tiny piece of the crisp outer ring of crust drenched in the mush where the filling meets the lower crust, with one single berry thrown in the mix.
Dad pronounces the choice bite I have fashioned for him choice indeed, and he reminds me, for the sixth time, to thank Michael and Trina once again for the outstanding pie.
"Dad at home in Kane, PA, in healthier times, after a productive day of berry picking."
courtesy of David Blackmore
My name is David Blackmore, Jr. I was born in Pittsburgh, but when I was eight years old, and much to my dismay, my father moved us three hours north to my parents' hometown of Kane, Pennsylvania. As a gay adolescent I felt trapped in that small mountain town, and I escaped as soon as I could to see the rest of the world. I am now a professor of Latin American studies and English at New Jersey City University in proudly urban Jersey City. "Blackberry Pie" is a chapter from my memoir in progress, "Chemical Works Road", and it takes place in a hospital in Pittsburgh during the last week of my father's life.
I would like to thank David for sending in this story and reminding us that love is often shown in simple, thoughtful and gentle gestures: serving someone the 'perfect bite'.