“Are you pregnant yet?”
If anyone else had outright asked this of me I would have recoiled. But when he asked, when the Italian patriarch of the family looked me in the eye and asked this blunt question, I could only answer with a smile.
“Not yet, Don.”
“We JUST got married, like 11 months ago.”
“So what? Get on it.”
“I’ll work on that, Pappy.”
He pulled me in for another kiss on the cheek
“Good….I brought you cannolis. I made a separate plate for you and Dane, go hide it.”
Family and food.
Two pillars of Don Lopez’s life. Two pillars that are forever hand in hand for an Italian. For family connection happens around the table. Food is not just about fuel, it is the glue of life. Meant to be enjoyed together. Cooked together, shared and cherished. The mundane necessity of eating transformed into a everyday act of love.
Where thought and intention are baked into every bite. Where flavors blended to create masterpieces for the tastebuds. Dishes of love for the ones he loves.
Food and family.
Whenever Don entered a room this was what it was about. Whenever he opened his home, this was the purpose; to host all he called family around his table and serve a piece of his heart with every dish.
Don’s hearing aged with him but lucky for him, his family is loud and had no problem speaking up to be heard. And though he was a man of “fewer” words, it was always obvious he was a man full of thoughts. Ask him about food preferences, about Coke vs Pepsi, about his Dog or car, and you would leave knowing all the thoughts he kept inside.
At any family event one only had to glance at Don to know he was taking it all in. Content to be present, soaking in the presence of the messy humans around him who held his heart. Looking at them with the equal parts judgment and love, but also deep unspoken delight and affection.
He carried these opinions that would sometimes gruffly escape in unfiltered expression. His Italian fatherly advice coming out in his Italian way; with one arm around you and one holding food to comfort you.
Life for Don was black and white, but it always came back to Family.
I think this is why his direct questions only made me smile. Why I could never be offended at the way he pushed for babies or poked intimate subjects. How could I when he wrapped his arms around me for a big Italian hug, and sent me home with edible gifts of his love.
It was impossible not to see his heart for you.
To see His devotion to family.
Don, you loved us so well. You loved your dog, your car, your garden with the passion of an Italian but most importantly you loved your family. You taught us how to infuse everyday life with spice and zest.
To be bold in speaking the things that matter.
To see food as nourishment for the soul.
To see the dinner table as a chance to love family extravagantly.
To pour our soul out into what we cook and how we serve those we eat with.
You taught us to cherish family and open our table to those who would otherwise not know the love of eating an extravagant meal. Of being cared for in this extravagant way. One that says “you are worth more than fast food”, you’re worth choicest ingredients, and my time. You’re worthy of your own place at this table.
Thank you for loving us in this way. Thank you for opening your home and heart to me and Dane. I always felt at home at your table. And the table will not seem quite complete without your presence at the head.
And now Don, what a feast you must be partaking in. A glorious banquet set with food you love and flavors you only dreamt of. And at the head of your table, your friend, your King. Welcoming you to his home, a seat at his table for all eternity.
Till we share a meal again,
Your Dogwood Italian daughter,