Friday, June 15, 2012

*I Shut My Eyes and Think of You*

I'm pretty sure you’re the reason I'm afraid of heights. If I shut my eyes tight, I picture you flinging me in the air. I clutch the collar of your white dress shirt to keep from going too high. My wispy, almost-white, baby hair brushes the ceiling and I whimper. Gentle and close you gather me, make my chest flush with yours. You indent your fingers into a spot near my heart. Your beard tickles my neck and I feel the bones beneath your skin.
            "There, there, honeypot," you say. "Everything'll be all right."


Most nights, you tucked me in and told me a tale. My favorites all  started with, "Once upon a time, many moons ago, there lived an Indian girl named Mini Haha.” I wanted to be her because I liked the way you spoke her name—with awe and tenderness. I wanted to be you because you made up the best bedtime stories ever.


Three years in a row, in the spring, we attended  the Campfire Girls' Father-Daughter Banquet at the Field House downtown. I wore my navy blue Campfire Girl get up and you'd still be in your suit from work. We'd stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken with eleven herbs and spices and buy two box dinners and Dr. Peppers. You ordered regular chicken. I requested extra crispy. You always asked the gal at the counter for an extra wet wipe. Because you knew how much I loved their Fruit Loop fragrance.
            Of all the daddies, you were usually the last to finish eating, but I didn't mind. It meant we had more time together. Alone.

Monday through Friday in the summertime, Mom and I went swimming at a hotel pool downtown. Sometimes you walked over from Marshall on your lunch hour and joined us.
            As I raced to hug your hips, Pat, the super tan lifeguard, would blast his whistle and bark, "No running!" 
             I'd perch on the smooth, red-tile edge of the pool, breathe deep the Coppertone and chlorine aromas, and witness your get-wet ritual. You proceeded gingerly down the steps until the water's reflection cast a wash of blue up your thighs. The minute the water licked the hem of your swim trunks, a tremor would skitter from the top of your body down. You'd scoop up water and skim your arms with it. Collect more coolness and pat it on your chest and fish belly-white tummy. I liked to imagine I had a magic marker. Then I could connect the dots of all your chocolate brown and strawberry-colored moles.
            You'd tread water near the rope between the shallow and deep ends and watch me go off the board.
            "Do a jackknife," you'd say. "Now a swan dive."
            You clapped when I attempted my first flip, even though it was more of a flop.


At the end of every summer you and I always cooked up a batch of homemade V-8 juice. First we plucked all the tomatoes off the vines in the backyard, even the ugly ones. Then we tucked them inside Mom's jumbo-sized pressure cooker. Added carrots and celery, salt and pepper. Simmered the concoction to death. After it cooled, we hooked Mom's foley mill onto her giant, baby poo-colored mixing bowl. You ladled the limp veggies into the mesh. I rotated the red-handled crank and watched the vegetables bleed out. You poured us each a glass, drizzled in some Worcestershire sauce, and stirred. You took a sip, smacked your lips, and grinned. I did the exact same thing because I knew it'd make you laugh.
You walked me to school every day—first through sixth grade. I was sure that meant you loved me more than the parents who put their kids on a bus. In between Green Oak Drive and Gallaher School, you addressed me like I was a grown up. Told me about B.F. Skinner and Pavlov's dog.
            "Remember how I taught you and your brothers to pee when I whistle? It's the same concept," you said.
            When it came time for seventh grade, I mourned . Beverly Hills Junior High wasn't on your way to work.
Year-round, school or no, most evenings I'd sit with you and Mom out in the living room. You'd nurse your Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and plow through half a can of Planters' Spanish red-skinned peanuts. I'd sneak some nuts when you weren't looking. Pinch 'em one at a time to make them slip out of their greasy, rosy little husks. Suck the salt off my fingers. Just like you.
            You devoured words while Mom and I laughed at the Carol Burnett Show or Sonny and Cher. You were especially fond of your Morse code magazine, Time and Newsweek, and books about the Civil War. You knew a little bit about a lot. I always thought that was cool. Still do. You reading all the time? More than likely, that's the reason I've adored books all my life. 
            And remember that spot near my heart? The one you pressed into me when I was wee tiny? The place where you both created and rescued me from my fear of falling? I can still locate it. Right here. Like my first chicken pock, it'll mark me forever.


salou said...

Sweet stories with classic memories to last forever.

Ginger said...


I wrote an earlier comment, but it didn't show up so I think I FAILed. Trying again...

LOVE the way you write. This is the first piece of your prose I've read, and I'm a fan. Excellent!


writingdianet said...

Thanks, sweet writer friend:) I'm copying you. I just submitted this one to midlifecollage. We'll see what happens!

Debbie said...

Lovely post!

writingdianet said...

Gingerrrrrrr! West Virginia Writer friend! Thank you so much for stopping by. And you fed my ravenous self-esteem. I love you:)

writingdianet said...

And Debbie! Eeek! I must go visit your wildly popular blog, friend! Hope all is well with you.

I am soooo feeling the love this a.m.. Oops! It's afternoon now. Oh well!

I have to say, blog comments are (almost) as satisfying as large quantities of coffee:)

Tony said...

Doc was sure one cool cat!!!

writingdianet said...

My dad (aka Pops, Doc) truly was a very cool cat. Yours was awesome too, Tony. But you know that:)


WHAT GREAT memories you have of your dad. I envy you. My dad died when I was two and I only have semi memories of times my sisters have told me about.
Blessings to you and yours.
Lovely lovely piece.

writingdianet said...

Oh, gosh, Barb. I'm sorry. That's so sad:(

I had a gal come up to me on Saturday before Zumba class and apologize. "I couldn't read your blog this week," she said. "See my dad . . ." Her tale did not go well.
I did have the thought when I posted this, that it might prick those who had a less than ideal dad, an absent father, or who had lost theirs early on. It must be really tough, especially on Father's Day.
Glad you liked the post though. It means a lot, friend.

Paige Meek Cobb said...

Once again you bring back memories. Summers at hotel pools, walking from Green Oak to Gallaher and of course...Sonny and Cher!


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