It’s a big one today. The BIG 6-5. He would’ve been 65 today.
We definitely would’ve had a party, complete with fancy table cloths and napkins. Not the paper kind, I suppose. And steak, definitely steak for dinner, followed by a cake. A special order one from the Cuban bakery down the street, not my annual homemade cake from a box. We’d be surrounded by family, friends, a special slide show/montage of his life through pictures and maybe even a speech. And in truth there would also probably be all kinds of stress because of the festivities and my crazy control-freak sister. But instead I spent it with a small latte and a box of Betty Crocker.
Many people need it. They wake up in the morning in a horrible, ready-to-beat-someone-up mood, but then they smell it. It’s in the air. The aroma. It catches them and then there’s a deep breath … a sigh of relief. It changes everything. And then when they taste it … forget about it. Coffee. For some people it’s the X Factor of the day. Me … I hadn’t had one in over a year and before that, fifteen years ago when I tried it in college at a one of those “cool” coffee shops on the corner and all it did was give me a crazy, horrible stomach ache and prevent me from studying that night. I ended up with cup of Sal de Uvas. I’m a tea person myself. But today … today I ordered something called a latte, and then another one, for my dad. A simple coffee, black with two sugars.
“Let’s have a cup of coffee and talk about life.”
I said it in times of sadness or stress, mostly to make him laugh. And it worked. I don’t know where I’d heard it, probably on TV or something.
“Thanksgiving coming around. Stressed out about all those turkeys and inventory at the store, huh? Let’s have a cup of coffee and talk about life.”
“My sister’s getting married and not just moving out of state, but way to the other side of the country, like by the Atlantic Ocean. Hmph. You wanna have a cup of coffee and talk about life?”
“The Sopranos is ending, huh? Let’s have a cup of coffee and talk about life.”
“April 14. 11:50 p.m. Haven’t filed taxes yet, huh? Let’s have a cup of coffee and talk about life.”
I was a tea drinker, but it got him every time.
So today in honor of him turning 65, there was no fancy restaurant, no fancy trip, no presents, and no family or friends, but there was cake. I woke up early, made a trip to the VONS, walked over to aisle 2 and grabbed a box of Betty Crocker Yellow Cake Mix. The Super Moist kind. Whipped up the simple recipe, looked at my own slide show, remembered old stories, and then headed over to see my dad.
But I made one quick stop. I bought myself the latte, and then bought him his regular coffee. I headed off to the cemetery to have that conversation. I’ll have to admit … it was a little one-sided, and the deer or gardeners will probably drink the coffee I left for him, but I still enjoyed the visit. I just missed his voice. His voice and his laughter.
But the cake … the cake was good. Chocolate frosting of course. I ate both pieces. Feliz Cumpleanos, Chito.