I remember the low-bush look on the forest floor and me kneeling or crouching, sitting where the berries dance heavy all around and I can pick sitting down, my fingers bluing with time like my grandma’s hair. I remember the feeling of berries rolling from their ripe, loose hold on the low bush and dropping into my hand and the tiniest sound of berries dropping into the bucket.
The forest makes sounds. It buzzes, sometimes too near—and even with sleeves and jeans and scarf, the mosquitoes find my skin and bite down like my own teeth into berries. Juice, blood red, blue, and tiny pale green leaves that land amidst the berries like green lace. “Mom?” I call out. She murmurs, still near—even a hundred years later, still near.
And the blue blush of my father’s face in the hospital bed. Why did he die on their anniversary? Why not sooner? Later? His face was plumped and his skin loose and cool like berries gone too long on a bush. He didn’t like to pick berries. Only mom and I liked the soft prayer of a berry patch, the pull of muscles too long bent over, and the contagious quiet that always left us with little to say. “Mom?” “Here.” “Okay.”
She cried when he died. Even with her tears and soft choking voice she leaned near him and told him, “It’s okay, it’s okay for you to go now. I’ll be alright. Really I will.” She kissed his cheek, and stroked the hand that hosted the IV needle in his blueberry stained skin.
How I loved picking blueberries. And my father. The forest knew my name–would give me songs to sing and wind so sweet with green smells that I would stop, small animal, and sniff.
My father knew my name. I remember his soft hand with its short fingers walking through my hair as he threatened to kiss me with his face all white with shaving cream and me sitting, legs swinging, sitting on the stool watching him shave.
Later, I couldn’t take my eyes off his hands, so still on the bed. I was glad he was unconscious. I kissed his fingers, touched the blueberry mark softly. I put his fingers to my eyes so his heart could feel my tears. Salt. Sweet. Sweet love filling my bucket.
Dad liked to fish.
I don’t remember when we drew apart, what blue water flowed cool between us and made it so difficult to say I love you. I need to know your thoughts, your inner yearnings. Talk to me, Dad. I don’t remember what went by or past or when. A decade snapped its fingers and then another and soon I was not six or sixteen but thirty-six and I watched with envy as my little girl, Lisa slipped quietly into my seat in his heart. A child is so easy to love. Curtains of age hid him from me but flew open at the sight of my own child, so like me—but not me—in his arms.
Not anymore. I never wanted to remember the ache gathering at the base of my skull that made me want to draw my body up tight and small and have him lay his fingers in my hair and stroke and one more time call me, “Pappy”. Now, I never want to forget.
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