This piece sat silently in my archives until I found it tucked away in a little-used folder on my computer’s desktop. It’s one of my favorite pieces from an earlier time in my life, when everything was changing, and not all the changes were for the better, and I had to find a way to make sense of all of that.
My way was to write.
A few pre-post notes for context:
-A friend of mine advised me recently not to worry about “writing everything right”. What I needed to do, she said, was write everything ME. Every writer has a voice. I needed to commit to mine. Interesting that one of the pieces that so clearly demonstrates this is one I wrote almost twelve years ago.
-My grandfather, the subject of the piece, passed away just weeks after a late Easter. That year, the holiday came in April.
-He always had jellybeans and tums in the right pocket of any coat he wore. At least it seemed that way to me.
One Gone Home
Tonight, when I went to a baseball game, I wore papa’s coat. Having received it as a gift on Easter Sunday, he had hardly had the opportunity to wear it himself.
And yet, it still had jellybeans and Tums in the right pocket, just as it should have. And it still smelled like him, too. Faintly of cologne, faintly of something else not quite recognizable, but clearly papa.
As I exited the car to head into the stadium, the wind picked up, and he was there. The cologne, the something else not quite recognizable but clearly papa played softly on the breeze.
I thanked God.
I sat in the stands being a little greedy, perhaps; every inning or so, I’d lean down and sniff at the coat, get his scent in my nose, and he’d be there again. In the seat next to me, or in his kitchen singing songs or deep-frying chicken strips.
Or reading stories to me late into the night.
Or telling me to get off my fat butt.
Or calling me “The Bear”.
I’ve heard it said that when you come close to death, your life flashes before your eyes, and I think that’s true, in a sense, when someone you love passes on, too. That all the memories we have of our dearly departed flash right there for us to see in our mind’s eye for a brilliant and bittersweet half-second.
Which causes those of us left living to engage in fruitless searches for an article that will slow the flashing. So that it becomes constant. So that the person is forever with us. We forage and we mine, and we hope to slow the flashing, knowing full well that it just isn’t to be.
But if we’re lucky, on cool nights at a baseball stadium, we’ll get to wear coats that still have jellybeans and Tums in the right pocket, that give us one more treasured memory, and still smell faintly of one gone home.