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I Miss You

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Dad loved Easter, especially the candy. He hid my baskets on the front porch right outside the main door. He woke me up early, “Well Evie, do you think the Easter Bunny came this year. You better go outside and check.” Still in white nightgown with pink ribbons, I dashed through the living room, flung open the door and lugged two overburdened baskets into the house.

Next, I cuddled next to him as we evaluated the contents. Every year in the center, he placed a dark-chocolate coconut egg decorated with hard pink roses, green leaves and white icing. Each basket contained a bag of jelly beans. He popped them into his mouth one after the other: red, green, yellow and purple ones and then chased them down with three black ones, his favorite. I followed suit but omitted the licorice ones. I looked up at him, laughed and said, “Black jelly beans taste like the smell of car tires. You know. Like the tubes inside.”

A solid milk chocolate rabbit with white eyes, pink nose and blue bow tie leaned against the handle. He handed it to me, and I chomped at the ears. He then broke off a chunk for himself and enjoyed the smooth taste as he licked the chocolaty remains off the creases of his lips. He peered in closer and said, “Look at all the eggs with foil wrappers. You must have been a very good girl this year.” I dug in again and found an inedible sugar egg with a peephole. When I peered inside, I saw a rabbit carrying a basket of colored eggs. Daffodils and lilies surrounded the white bunny, and a church with stained-glass windows nestled in the background.

Mom wrapped a bright green sun dress with white polka dots in purple tissue paper and placed it in the smaller of the two baskets. I also found a package of ribbons for my hair and a fuchsia and silver pinwheel. I sat there and fingered the bow atop the handle. It had the colors of the rainbow. I remarked, “See Daddy, the bunny picked out rainbow colors for my basket. If we go outside after the rain, maybe we will see one. Look! It’s pink, yellow, green and purple. I love you, Daddy.”

I also admired the colors of the grass inside the baskets. Mom changed the decor every year. Sometimes, she bought the traditional green, other times lavender. This year, she had picked out an iridescent white. Both parents knew that I took special interest in this artificial grass. (While in college, my parents placed these manmade strands inside my Easter cards.) I still got baskets into my twenties, but they curtailed the tradition when I married at the age of twenty-two.

Dad moved my basket onto the dining room table. Right next to it was a cutting board with slabs of coconut egg. He smoked his cigarette, placed it on the corner and went outside to fetch something. I looked around, saw no one and reasoned, “If it’s good enough for Daddy, then It’s good enough for me, too. Well, why not? I picked up his Camel, drew it to my mouth and inhaled deeply. I coughed incessantly, ran to the water pail and drank three dippers full of water. The acrid flavor remained. I grabbed a chunk of coconut egg, munched away and tried to clear the sickening taste in my mouth. When Dad came in, his jaw dropped. He scolded, “What did you do? I can’t imagine why you smoked my cigarette. You are only five-years-old. This is not a good thing for you to do. Maybe, now you won’t ever smoke.” He was right. This memory squelched the desire forever.

We often played a game called “observing.” We took turns describing things in the environment. We went outside, looked around, found an object and described it. I liked the newly emerged purple crocuses with strands of white and yellow centers. He pointed out a chattering squirrel leaping from limb to limb in a nearby tree. He tore a leaf from a flowering bush, showed me the dewdrop, held it up to the sun and said, “If you look closely, you will see the same rainbow colors that are on your Easter basket bow.”

We ventured back inside and asked Mom to play “observing,” too. She led me into the living room and showed me the lily Dad had purchased for her. As we moved in closer, she commented, “Some things are beautiful to look at. Like this lily. This is Easter’s sacred flower. It also has a wonderful smell. Remember, even if you are poor, you can always enjoy the beauty of the flowers around you.”

In the summer before Dad died, we played the observing game, but this time, we wrote our thoughts on paper. Years later, as I rummaged in the flowered box where I store special cards and mementoes, his writing fell out.

Observing

“I noticed a steady pounding in my heart beat; so I thought I would check. I found no skips, no stops, nor other things, just a steady, constant beat. Perhaps I have Evelyn to thank for that.

I also noticed the flowers were blooming nicely despite the chilly nights.

While watching the fireworks on Fourth of July, I also noticed how bright the stars were shining. The big dipper was very bright, and the lightning bugs were very thick. 

We haven’t had a barn swallow here for the last three years. I guess there isn’t any grain planted near here.

Evelyn, I do not know how to thank you for all you have done for me. You have made life pleasant for us. We are proud of what you have accomplished. You will always be my little girl. I love you and your family. They have all been good to us. I have always been concerned that all would be well and nothing would happen to any of you. All my love to you and your family.”

Love,
Dad

I clutch my father’s last letter.

Your love comes to me in waves, undulates to the shore, leaves its imprint and then retreats into the abyss. I hear the whistling, beckoning sounds of long-haired sirens in the undertow. This repeats itself over and over again, and like responses to great pieces of music, I react viscerally to your warm contact from beyond the grave. We embrace, clasp hands, let go and gently drift in opposite directions, with a nod, a smile and a wave of the hand, you bid me a fond farewell. Amidst the crashes of the waves, I hear the echoes of your good bye. In the Valley of the Shadow of Death, a perpetual flame glows steadily . . . comforts me. You are with me always. 

I miss you.

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