Monday, October 25, 2010

Missing Papa

I never dreamed he'd be gone.

We're sitting in the school room, supposed to be doing math. Instead I'm looking at his hands. Wow, those cuticles are driving me insane... I love all the creases and lines, how his hands are so big and strong, always able to do anything.

Sometimes it hits me how much I miss him.

We're driving in his truck. Rush Limbaugh is on the radio, and we each have a Coke and banana bite from QT. "Sally, why does the price of real estate effect the price of beef?" "Um.... I have no idea." "Well, if you..."

I just want to talk to him again. I don't even have to touch him. Just - talk.

Now we're at the fire station. I'm climbing around on the ladder truck. I can hear his shoes squeaking while he and Josh play a heated game of basketball.

Politics. Economics. Math. History. Sports. Any subject, really.

"Papa, what's the right way to shoot a basketball?" He puts the ball in my hands, them moves them around till they're in the right position. Jump shots, free throws, don't depend on the backboard.

I'd pay more attention. I'd listen closely. I'd focus on him - his emotions, his personality.

I'm mudding a freshly nailed section of sheet rock. I hear, scrape, thump, bang, as he walks around on his stilt shoes attaching the sheet rock with a nail gun. The swish of the air compressor. Then the propane heater kicks on. I love the smell of drywall - it always makes me happy, because I'm always with him when I smell it.

Sometimes I see his image in my mind. Snippets, frozen in time. A big, cheesy grin. Him lying in the recliner, asleep. Then I realize - I'm remembering pictures. And it hurts. It's too soon to lose him. Next time I see him, I'll memorize - Oh.

The only time I ever remember seeing him run - off the basketball court. I'm sitting in his truck, playing while he works on stripping and rebuilding a burned out house. I'm young, I don't know about parking brakes - I put it in neutral, and it starts rolling down the hill toward a pond. Why is he so worried? He'll rescue me.

There's no way he's gone. If only I could call him. Just ask him one more question. Just listen to one more lecture. Just discuss world affairs, hear his latest political solution for Israel. Just rebuild one more house. Just sit in the truck and watch him mow, or back the boat down to the water and fish one more time.

The water rocks the boat - sometimes gently, while we tie up to a pier or tree and fish. Sometimes close to shore, where I lay belly-down on the prow and use my pocket knife to free pop-bottle bobbers that have tangled in the rocks. Sometimes rough, as we race back to the dock before a storm hits. This is my favorite - sitting braced in the front seat, laughing as the spray hits me in the face, using my feet to hold on to the sides of the boat while we plunge up and down, like a jolting roller coaster.

I never dreamed there would be a last time. I would have savoured it. I never dreamed he'd be gone.

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