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By Laura Stec

E-mail Laura Stec

About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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The Last Grape

Uploaded: Jul 15, 2014

I write this watching my father transition to a new world. Ed Stec, born June 25, 1924. Ninety years + four days. A hard working, self-made man. Owner of Stec Electric for thirty years. Raised four kids. Lover of sports, tools, travel, making money, coins, casinos, Cadillacs…and now... grapes.

He lies still for hours, but when the nurse comes in to ask, "Do you want anything to eat Ed," he answers with a firm "no." Well, no, except that is, for maybe a grape. Yes, just one grape – cool, sweet, soft yet crisp. Simple to eat.

The perfect package.

He takes it in - chews, sucks and moves the grape around his mouth for five minutes or more. I see slight eye movement and a small "silly" smile. There's not a lot of stimulation people need in their last days, but seeing my father interact with this grape is like watching the greatest taste there ever was. He is so present, so aware of one small flavor.

Fast-forward two weeks and I am on the plane back to California. My father thumbed his nose at the hospice prognosticator, living much longer than the seventy two hours they originally gave him. I rerun the weeks' activities thru my mind – his passing that I was honored to witness, the funeral parlor visitation, Catholic mass, reception, family members I haven't seen in years. But my thoughts keep returning to that grape and his chewing sonnet, now juxtaposed with the free Ritz cheesey crackers I just mindlessly inhaled.

I remember deeply experiencing something new about food and eating watching Dad savor that cool, sweet, last grape.

But how quickly we forget.

The man across the aisle grabs his free cheese crackers from the seat back pocket. I'm certain he will mindless munch like me. I pull out a stopwatch, but clock only thirty seconds before he packs up the remaining four crackers and goes back to his Kindle. Good on him.

What would you want to eat if it was the last food you'd ever put in your mouth?

And how long would you chew it, knowing this was your last taste and swallow?

We may think the dying have nothing left to give us. But quite possibly watching someone's final days is when we receive their greatest gifts of all.




Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Jul 15, 2014 at 10:49 am

Sorry for your loss Laura.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Lili, a resident of another community,
on Jul 15, 2014 at 11:46 am

This was a wonderful piece Laura. Sorry for your loss, but very happy that you had this very special time with your dad and for the great takeaways from the experience.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Wendee, a resident of another community,
on Jul 15, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Dear Laura,

Thank you for the lovely words. THis is a lovely tribute to your father. As I read, a piece of dust lodged in my eye and can't seem to find it's way out. Really beautiful. This will follow me for a while.

To answer your question: fresh pineapple or a perfect concord grape.

Sending many thoughts and wishes your way.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by joanne Ickes, a resident of another community,
on Jul 15, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Love these words. Thanks for sharing that beautiful story and reminding us to savor the moment. I know u probably asked rhetorically but my last food choice? Watermelon, hands down.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Peg Champion, a resident of another community,
on Jul 15, 2014 at 6:50 pm

A lovely tribute to your dad, Laura. The picture is beautiful, too!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura, Too, a resident of another community,
on Jul 15, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Laura, mine would be chocolate, but my dad's was vanilla ice cream, spoonfed to him by his youngest child (Jody) while she rattled off funny memories about Dearborn and about Seinfeld. The 6 of us adult-kids lived in his house for a whole week just to soak up every last possible minute with him - I know you understand. We were so blessed to have these amazing fathers; thanks for this wonderful story. LOVE the picture of you and Ed.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura, Too, a resident of another community,
on Jul 15, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Laura, mine would be chocolate, but my dad's was vanilla ice cream, spoonfed to him by his youngest child (Jody) while she rattled off funny memories about Dearborn and about Seinfeld. The 6 of us adult-kids lived in his house for a whole week just to soak up every last possible minute with him - I know you understand. We were so blessed to have these amazing fathers; thanks for this wonderful story. LOVE the picture of you and Ed.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura, Too, a resident of another community,
on Jul 15, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Laura, mine would be chocolate, but my dad's was vanilla ice cream, spoonfed to him by his youngest child (Jody) while she rattled off funny memories about Dearborn and about Seinfeld. The 6 of us adult-kids lived in his house for a whole week just to soak up every last possible minute with him - I know you understand. We were so blessed to have these amazing fathers; thanks for this wonderful story. LOVE the picture of you and Ed.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by A Single Guy, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jul 15, 2014 at 7:51 pm

The last thing I would want to eat would be a piece of fresh fruit, something seasonal and local.

Today, that might be a stone fruit like peaches or nectarines. Or maybe some blackberries or strawberries. Or perhaps a cool slice of melon.

Something that puts me in a time (now) and place (here). Better if it grew in a family member or friend's garden.

Godspeed, Ed.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by RW, a resident of another community,
on Jul 16, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Beautiful story and photo. I'm sorry for your loss.

Dark chocolate truffle rolled in cocoa powder.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Cid Young, a resident of another community,
on Jul 22, 2014 at 1:00 am

Interesting story. My Mom was in a nursing home (yes, they still called them that in Plymouth, MA. back in 1987) and she wanted grapes as well. It made me wonder, when I read your story. Sadly, she too passed on, but not before I found some fresh grapes in the dead of winter, and brought them to her bedside. (They were probably grown in South America, where it would have been summer.)
The other thing I remember from that time was that the place brought by a little cart around 4 PM every day with teeny weenie glasses of brandy, or was it sherry? She really looked forward to that treat. The glass couldn't have been much larger than a Communion Glass ... I mean one sip, two at the most, but such anticipation!

Last week my friend succumbed to death, after being taken off his feeding tube by the siblings who lived far away, out of state, and out of the country. He was a very talented Interior Designer before his stroke which left him paralyzed. He had clients such as Rita Moreno who now lives in the East Bay, and even worked with Al Gore on his place at the St. Regis, in San Francisco. My friend, Jonathan, was a kind, creative person, who always had fantastic parties and had quite the career for himself, making tons of friends along the way. One of them even drove up from L.A. to visit him when she heard of the family's decision to stop all artificial means of care. I can't say enough praise for the attentive staff at Laguna Honda, in San Francisco, too. I'm sure, had he been able to swallow, he certainly would have enjoyed one last grape.
Thank you for your story.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura Stec, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Jul 22, 2014 at 7:53 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Thank you everyone for your thoughts and well wishes, both here and offline. Cid Young, now you are making me cry. Jonathan meet Ed Stec, the other new arrival up there. He's the funny guy with the great head of white hair who also loved a good party. Do they have freezers up there? Frozen grapes are the perfect addition to late summer parties.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Cid Young, a resident of another community,
on Jul 23, 2014 at 11:38 am

Laura Stec,

I'm almost certain they do!

Jonathan Straley : Web Link



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