where the writers are
Sunshine, rain and memories
Like the promise of spring, Diana returns to plant the seeds that will awaken Adrian's passions and rewrite an imperfect past.
Amazon.com Amazon.com
Powell's Books Powell's Books

As I topped the rise on I-24 coming home from seeing my dying father in Ohio, it was in the closing days of winter three years ago. Below me in the valley at the foot of Pikes Peak, the sun shone and gilded everything at the feet of the hoary-headed mountain that glittered like a diamond-studded ermine beneath the clear sky. Above the valley the sky was the blue peculiar to Colorado. The sun ruled alone, no clouds to attend it or cover its face, and the air rushing through the open car window was fresh and clean. I was home. At 11:45 a.m. as I topped the rise and drove down the other side, that was my only thought: I'm home.

I didn't know until I walked into my apartment, unloaded the car and sank gratefully onto the couch how much things would change in the next few minutes. All I knew was that I was grateful to be back in my stuffy apartment with the blinds and curtains closed.

After I shut and locked the door, opened the curtains and blinds and raised the windows, and after the fresh crisp air rushed into the room, I called my mother to let her know I had arrived safely. It had been a rough trip, longer than I had anticipated, with part of the journey spent sick in bed with a bad cold. It seems every time I leave Colorado I return with either a bad cold or some new strain of flu, and this last trip was no different. I spent a few days with friends in Missouri and spent almost all of them in bed. That was all behind me and I was home, anxious to find out if my father was still hanging on, and so I called.

I knew from the sound of my mother's voice my father was gone. It was in the trembling trill of her hello. "When did he die?" It was at 1:45 p.m, the same time I topped the rise to see the glittering valley below me and knew I was home. My father had hung on until I was safe, until he knew for certain I was home. That was three years ago on March first, but his death was the beginning of my awakening, my spring.

Spring came late three years ago, winter reluctant to relax its grip on even this sheltered valley. The skies darkened and the cleared, shedding snow and then rain like a deep cleansing breath, and then the snow came back with bitter howling winds and heavy, wet snows that stung like needles on all exposed skin. The weather mirrored my feelings of grief and relief: grief at my father's death, that anchor in my storm-tossed wanderings, and relief that his struggles and pain were finally over, that the gnawing of rabid rats on his bones was finished and he was free.

Like the uncertain spring, I was uncertain of how to get through the days of picking up the phone to call and share a joke or listen to him tell me what his roosters and chickens were up to this week.  He was gone and, even though I knew the fact of it, like a phantom limb still reaching, still trying to connect with something tangible and solid, he was still there.

Winter reluctantly gave way to the soft scented warming breezes that coaxed pale greens, yellows, pinks and whites from empty branches and snow dappled ground and spring blossomed in earnest. Grass raised sere brown tendrils, testing and tasting the air, then springing to vigorous life. Tulips and crocuses popped open and ragged yellow flags of forsythia flew beneath cloudless Colorado blue skies. Life emerged slowly and the fox, having regained its color, still in its ragged winter coat trotted up the sidewalk toward its hidden den with a hapless squirrel dangling from its lean jaws.

My father died before he had a chance to see the spring, his ashes long since cold, but it was his gnarled and work roughened hands guiding mine as I wandered the aisles of Rick's Garden center, inhaling rich compost, moist earth and the overwhelming aroma of flowers and budding trees and familiar herbs. Among his favorites -- irises, lilies, lilacs, roses and bushy-starred allium -- I added rosemary, lavender, thyme and violets. The berries, vegetables and fruits would come later with the opening of the local farmer's market on Saturday mornings where I would use what my father taught me to pick and choose to make his -- and my -- favorite meals, as hungry for life as he had been and unwilling to waste a single moment.

The wheel of the year turned, the soft pastels of spring giving way to the deep greens and flashing hues of summer that would enrich and blaze with glorious fire in autumn before the stark, dark silence of charcoal smudged skies and silence of winter when the promise of life sleeps beneath the soft, cold, white blanket of winter.

My father is gone and yet not gone. Like the cycle of the seasons, some part of him lives on, a carefully planted corm or bulb entombed in the autumn that sleeps and wakens with the return of the sun and the warming breezes of spring to come back to life and stretch greening arms beneath the upright head of the pastel-shaded blossom. He returns in my thoughts and memories and I hear his laughter every time I see his ever present smile in his pictures, his fingers twisted with age and lined with earth. I know his hands and his smile will be warm with welcome when it is my time to join him. In the meantime, there is the promise of spring and green growing things that smell like sunshine, rain and memories waiting to be plucked. 

6 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

Tiger Stadium

I’m thinking about Joni Mitchell’s song The Last Time I saw Richard; she says it was Detroit in ’68 and it reminds me of the one and only time I ever saw Detroit. Tiger Stadium. Three AM, I guess, or something like it. Tiger Stadium, half a block away in the middle of the night as we pumped gas and bought beer at the 24/7.
Six or seven years ago, six or seven of us, knees cramped from too many hours folded into the rented SUV, nobody really knowing the best route to Toledo, and me not really giving a damn anyway, being in no particular hurry to get to the old man’s funeral. Bastard.
I was like half-way through a pint of Cuervo, anyway, and I looked up from my half-smoked Camel and noted the high arched entryway, and the box office marquee listing the upcoming games, home and away.
“Jesus! It’s friggin Tiger Stadium!”
“Tiger friggin Stadium! Let’s go look!”
Nobody was having any of it. I was already ambling down the block. A police cruiser cruised, slowed, didn’t stop.
“We’re gonna leave you here,” my brother’s voice faded away behind me, “I’m not fuckin around with you.”

Bricks, well after midnight.
Box office, empty.
The Last Game, a scoreless tie.

I watched them drive away; stood there enjoying all the tiny lights, stood there half an hour waiting for something to be revealed. Held my breath. Smoked the end of a joint and finished the Cuervo.
After a while, the van pulled up beside the glaring convenience store. “Come on,” he said, “We gotcha some fries.” Bastard.

Comment Bubble Tip

Thanks for the memory

I didn't go to my father's funeral either, but Mom knew that ahead of time. I said I come could to see him when he was alive or for his funeral. Dad and I chose seeing him alive. Ever greedy and demanding, Mom wanted me to turn around and come back.

Comment Bubble Tip

I hear you

My father and I had a difficult relationship, nearly totally estranged, for most of my adult life. We managed some degree of reconciliation for the last few years of his life but, really, there was very little there. It was a blessing that we lived so geographically far apart, didn't have to see each other often. My older brother is just just like him.

Comment Bubble Tip

Long distance relationships

I got the similarity between your brother and father from your tale and I know the feeling. My mother and I have a difficult relationship that improves with distance. The greater the distance, the better the relationship, except she refuses to move to Andromeda or Alpha Centauri. I kept in contact with my family because of my father and my youngest sister and staying with Mom for the few days I was there to be with Dad before he died was difficult. If she ever dies, I won't go back for the funeral and, since I'm the oldest child, the one left off my father's obituary when it was published, no older sibling will talk or force me into going back. At least you got to see Tiger Stadium.

Comment Bubble Tip


Left out of the obit, eh? That's harsh.

It used to be, when my father introduced us (I'm the second oldest, BTW) he'd say, "This here is my oldest boy, Rocky. This is my beautiful daughter, Linda. And these are the twins, Peter and Paul. This one here writes poetry."

As if I didn't have a name, or that being a poet was similar to having some sort of social disease. And he pronounced it "poi-tree."

Let's talk about something else; I don't want to start disliking him all over again.

Comment Bubble Tip


Being left out of the obit seemed harsh at first, but it turns out it is a really good thing. Whenever one of my siblings starts a conversation with "your mother" I can honestly say she's not my mother and I'm not part of this family. Of course it also helps that I was adopted. Sometimes, a little bit of justice trickles down.

I have a lot of respect for poets. It's not something I do often or well. I stick to safe territory -- prose -- and save poetry for those times when I can't spin the images into a story or book and they demand to be put down and seen.