My electronic inbox overflows with entreaties to make Father’s Day purchases at deep discounts. Shopping is not on my mind.
Even my reliably soothing farm game saddens me with a “Father’s Day Quest” in which a brown-eyed, raven-haired girl pops up with bubbles of text recalling what her father has taught her, like looking at stars through a telescope and how to drive. (It was I who had to ride shotgun for all of those hours with the daughter who just got her license.)
Last Father’s Day, not long after Jim’s death, I took the children who were home with me on the kind of family hike Jim frequently took with us. He would clamber with his long stride up a mountain with our youngest jabbering musically in a baby carrier on his shoulders as the other three zig-zagged ahead, happily crying out “This way!” when they spotted the painted triangles which marked the trails.
Clusters of us would link and unlink hands, helping each other over boulders and down slippery stretches. Jim, who always carried the lion’s share of the weight, though it never seemed to burden him, would dole out water bottles and other supplies. Small hands would grab fists full of his special gorp mixture. (Despite the seemingly indiscriminate grabbing, the M & Ms and cashews always would go first.)
Of course this time, without Jim, I got us a little bit lost on the way up to the trail head.
When we finally arrived, all the trails we ordinarily took were obstructed by fallen trees, casualties of catastrophic spring storms.
With an Eagle Scout in tow, one is never lost for long. He found another path to the top. When we arrived there I looked for the bright yellow birds Jim always seemed to photograph there, spotting them with his keen eyes and extraordinary vision (which always surpassed 20/20; he was a natural overachiever) among the yellow-lime leaves which shuddered with each strong breeze and made a sound like rushing water or a hundred people whispering in concert somewhere in the woods.
We climbed to the very top of an observation deck where all of us had stood just a few years ago with our lovely Spanish exchange student. We looked out on an equally sunny vista and felt the sun of an equally warm day.
We raised our water bottles to one another, making a sound more like hands clasping than the tinkling glass of a traditional toast.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon