Friday, November 10, 2017


this is for the people who voted yes on instagram (@summerof1999blog) to me posting this unedited
and anyone else who loves me enough to read this whole thing, or at least part of it xoxo

We grow up to the tune of Don Williams and Bruce Springsteen blaring from Dad’s old white truck as he mowed the yard. It’s spring, and life is young and fresh and, well, alive. The grass seems to be growing faster than Dad can cut it. Mom won’t stop pointing out the red buds that I insist are purple. The birds can’t keep quiet with their same tunes over and over in the morning, and I love it. Dad sings as he mows and takes breaks to beat us in basketball once again. “Learn to lose when you’re young, and you’ll appreciate the winning when it comes later on, when you’ve worked for it,” he’d say.
            I wake up in the morning early for breakfast, pulling my favorite ugly t-shirt over my head, eager to get my school done with as mom taught me, on the edge of my seat to get outside, rain or shine, to get my hands and feet dirty. Barefoot season is coming back, according to Mom, although I’m not actually sure it ever ended.
             The sun starts beating down harder, and another summer is here before we know it. Our feet are hard now. Dad fills up the little pool in the backyard with well water. It’s freezing cold and tinier than any of us remembered, but somehow we manage five people crammed on the kiddie slide between us and our cousins. Our feet pound down the hard packed dirt trail between our houses, unconsciously dodging every memorized stone and root in the way, over the creek, through the woods and into the cornfield. The stalks loom twice as high as us. Hide and Seek Tag in this seems like the best idea since sliced bread (whatever that means), even after the 15 ticks found on each of us afterwards, even with the stalks slapping our faces as we sprint down the slopes and cut between the rows of green.
            We rush home to Dad washing the cars before dinner. It has to be getting late, but the light is still so bright and strong. No, there must be plenty of time left. Dad’s helping us wash, even though we must’ve added an extra half hour at least to the project. Mom calls Dad in for supper and we all sprawl out on our ugly maroon couch for Andy Griffith. Mom says Dad’s tired, and even though he just drank his full mug of coffee, he’s asleep within ten minutes.
            It’s fall now, and the days are getting shorter, but the trees are brighter in their dying.  They scatter themselves all over our yard as Dad blows them into a pile for us to demolish. We fling ourselves onto the pile and each other as the leaves twirl lazily back down. The sky is clear, infinite blue. The sun rests warm on my skin, but the squirrels feel the cool in the air and scamper around fathering food for the hardest part of the year. We just see Dad in his old Redskins sweatshirt and hat, and it feels like it’ll last forever.
            Dad always commentates on the changing trees in fall. His favorites he calls the “Golden Sovereigns”. They’re tall and yellow gold and always stand out on the gravel road that leads past our driveway. Sometimes we walk down there to the field, stopping at Mom’s favorite big oak tree. We sit there on some stumps Dad chopped up when a big tree fell dangerously close to our house a few years ago. We just sit there and talk about how we’re going to build all our houses right here near Mom and Dad’s house. Dad promises to build it for us. We wrap ourselves in his arms and look up at him in awe.
            “Really?” I ask, already knowing the answer. The sun’s setting, reflecting in his eyes as he looks down at me, smiling, his face rough and unshaven. I used to call his beard “ewe-y stuff” when I was younger. He’d tickle me like he was offended and I’d kick and scream and fight so he wouldn’t stop, because as hard as I fought, I loved every second of it.
            “Yeah, sweetheart,” he says. “Lord-willing.”
            We head back for supper eventually. Our favorite was breakfast for dinner. Dad likes his eggs a little underdone and scrambled so well you could hardly get a full bite on your fork without some falling off. Then we have toast and honey and sausage or bacon and chocolate milk or orange juice, and all is well with the world.
            We go through out evening rituals now, wrapping up with Dad reading The Chronicles of Narnia to us just before bed. He's the best out loud reader that I've ever heard. As far as I'm concerned, he's pretty much perfect. He does the voices and the accents and everything. Sometimes, he even makes us jump out of our sheets at the scary parts. More often though, the sound of his voice lulls me into a peaceful half rest. I try not to, but sometimes I fall asleep to the sound of his voice and the fan running in the bathroom.
            It feels like I blinked, and it's already winter. This winter is different than any others before, though. This one comes too fast with too much rain, too many black clothes, too many drawn curtains, and aching silence. This Christmas, we sit around at our traditional, candlelit Christmas Eve dinner with swollen eyes, waiting for the empty chair at the head of the table to make the first toast to Mom. We suffer our way through what Dad considered a religious watching of It’s A Wonderful Life. I find myself waiting for Dad’s ridiculous imitations of the greedy Mr. Potter, and his emotive murmurs of the meaningfulness of the message. I silently wonder what the world would look like if Dad had never lived in it, and wish he could’ve seen the difference he made. I wish I’d told him while I could. Every Christmas song on every one of his fifty Christmas albums reminds me of him. How he knew every song and made up the lyrics when he didn’t.
            I wake up Christmas Eve night with cold feet, knowing Dad would’ve told me to get some of his wool socks and wondering who was going to eat the cookies we set out for Santa Claus, who we always knew as Dad. When all the kids finally wake up, going down the steps for Christmas morning feels wrong without Dad over in his chair by the fire in his plaid robe, drinking coffee, and videoing an excessive full hour of us opening presents and stockings. We put Jesus in the manger, and it’s hard to imagine something so permanent and unchanging in a world of constant passing and changing.
            It’s not until it finally starts getting light outside that we realize it’s snowing and has been all night! There’s a stir of excitement. The youngest are squealing, and Mom’s sending kids upstairs to get the snow stuff, and we’re shoving the last of the doughnuts in our mouths from breakfast. And I can’t help but think how Dad always wanted snow on Christmas. It’s like it was meant for him, just a little too late. Or maybe for us.
            The night had been so dark, but with the morning came light, and somehow the light was made brighter by the snow left behind in the storms wake. It was still cold, but maybe the cold was like the dark and it would pass, too, and spring would come back again, and another year would come and go, and it would be okay. And maybe, maybe one day, I’ll see him again soon.
            It’s like that Don Williams song he always loved so much, the one he sang about his mom.
            How can I forget you when there’s always
            Something there to remind me …
            You’ll always be a part of me