Editor's Query: Tell us about a time when the lights went out and something unexpected happened

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In my family, there are a few stories that get told over and over.

One of them was a mystery. About 40 years ago, my parents took my very proper grandmother to dinner at Hausner's, then a downtown Baltimore icon. They enjoyed a fancy meal and had dessert, something they did only on very special occasions. My father ordered strawberry shortcake, and the confection arrived adorned with a single, enormous, red strawberry. But before Dad got to take a bite, the lights went out in the restaurant. When the lights came back on, the strawberry was gone.

Over the years, when one of us encountered a large, luscious strawberry, the incident was recounted, and my father, with a glint in his eye, accused my mother of stealing it. My mother retorted that my father had sneaked it in the dark, and we kids opined that our grandmother wasn't as proper as we thought. Even the anonymous waiter was implicated. No matter how often the story was told, no one admitted guilt.

Last summer, my father suffered complications from surgery and lay in his hospital bed unconscious and dying. We gathered around him while making the decision to disconnect life support. When we decided it was time to let our father go, my mother leaned into her husband of 56 years, kissed him and whispered: "I know you can hear me, honey, and before you go, I need to confess that I ate the strawberry."

We laughed at this bittersweet resolution and steeled ourselves for what came next.

Kathy Goodin, Fairfax

Tell us about a time when a parent's directive was misunderstood. If you have a 100 percent true story taken from your own experience concerning the above query, send it to queries@washpost.com or The Washington Post Magazine, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Include your daytime phone number. Recount your story in 250 words or less.

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