06 October 2005

Cherry Popsicles


Apparently my dad likes popsicles very much. Yesterday he gobbled down a purple one, then immediately asked for another (orange), and even while his lips were still brightly-stained and cold, he reached for a cherry-flavored, biting at the stick like a cob of corn to get the frozen red ice loose. He also had a popsicle stuffed under each of his armpits, attempting to lower his fever of 104.

When I was younger, my father and I had a ritual. Many summer weekends were spent in our garden, just the two of us, landscaping the flower beds, trimming the hedges, pulling weeds, and adding more mulch. My favorite time was when the fresh dirt arrived...a big dump truck would deliver two huge piles. To my young eyes, they looked like two giant mountain peaks right there on our driveway, the perfect size for me to climb. One hill was just regular dirt, light in color. The other was a rich, smelly, damp sort of mulch the color of espresso, with bits of torn bark and earthworms wiggling inside.

We had a green wheelbarrow. I helped my dad shovel the dirt into the wheelbarrow in heaps (he used a big shovel, I used a small one). We'd scoop and scoop until the wheelbarrow was full, and then he'd let me help him push it, weaving up the driveway and across the lawn where we'd dump it and spread it all around the pansies, begonias, and azaleas until our kneese grew sore and dirt-caked. He always spent the most time on his rose bushes. I think he was the proudest of them.

At the end of our tiring day in the sundrenched yard, we'd hop into his Jaguar...not the kind of Jaguar that you see today in country club parking lots, but a Jag from the 60s. British Racing Green. A convertible. My dad's first car. We'd zoom along with that engine revving so loudly that everyone knew we were coming, and race to 7-11 for slurpees. My dad liked cherry-flavor back then too.

For many of my early growing up years, I often felt like it was just me and my dad...our own little team of two. Maybe that was just part of having an older sister who was allowed to bake cookies and go to the mall and do things that I couldn't yet. But my dad always made me feel like I was important, even in my smallness. When I started softball, he practiced throwing and catching with me in the yard. I remember the day clearly that we went to Oshman's to buy my first mit. Truly, I had the athletic aptitude of a potato chip, but he came to my practices anyway and drilled me on catching fly balls.

I also remember the tragic day that my hamster died. Daisy was her name. I brought her downstairs cupped in my hands. She was just barely moving. I was gushing tears of course because that hamster represented my entire life at the time, and my dad just sat with me and cried with me until Daisy the hamster stopped breathing. We buried her in a little box in the backyard. I remember thinking at the time that my dad must really love Daisy too, much more than I'd realized, because I had never seen him cry before.

I am not sure how many years later it was that I finally understood the real reason he was crying, and it wasn't over a hamster. Well, it was and it wasn't.

These past few weeks, sitting in the hospital room with my dad, spooning vanilla pudding into his mouth, and holding his hand so tightly because I don't quite know how not to, I caught a glimpse of that again. It's funny the things you remember in life...the memories that creep in and hang their hat and never seem to leave. I know that I will never forget the day that my hamster died, even though I went out and bought a new one just a few days later. And I know that from now on, any time I eat a cherry popsicle, I'm going to think of my father.

1 comment:

Mark Traphagen said...

Kirsten:

I've been praying for you ever since Jeremy told me about your situation. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story of connection and loss.

Mark T