So the prompt which started on June 5 and said “make it part of a series” is back. You’ll remember I tossed the philosophy/literature/teaching content out the window and told you about my late husband. I must not have done a very good job of it though because one person wrote to tell me that my husband must be very proud of me (present tense indicated). First, did I not make it clear he was dead? Second, did I not make it clear that I’m a mess, and nothing to be proud of?
Still, I am sticking to this writing challenge (doggedly; click Like if you get both jokes there). If Part One of the serial was loss, Part Two is supposed to be finding. There’s no rational way in which I can find him again, but he kept finding me those first few days after he died. For one thing, although I swear I’ve gone ten years without anyone else in the universe except him even mentioning an Orange Julius, there I am reading Gone Girl in the hospital and out of nowhere somebody talks about Orange Julius. Similarly, the hospital kitchen did not have standard-issue Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. No, they had General Mills Country Corn Flakes, and one of Dan’s favorite tunes to sing was the commercial where the words “New Country Corn Flakes” are set in place of “This Land is Your Land.”
Aunt Jemima Pancakes, without her syrup
Is like the spring without the fall;
There’s only one thing worse
In this universe
And that’s no Aunt Jemima at all.
He had the best singing voice I’ve ever heard, and he used it to promote breakfast products. Well, it entertained Maggie-Dog. She loved when he sang to her. Mostly parodies; cheap ones, too, where he only changed one word to make it “Maggie” or “Dog.” Then he would tell her, “I wrote you a song.” She was easily impressed.
He finds me in odd places. Right next to me here at my desk at school is a 2-inch ring binder with a presumptively “clean” copy of a presentation I gave on writing tutoring, and there on page 1 is a typed word scratched out with what looks like my Rotring fountain pen in which I keep black-cherry colored ink and next to it, in Dan’s unmistakable block print, the better word (“idea” instead of “detail.”) He had a few catchphrases which I was encouraged (maybe even egged, to keep the breakfast theme going) to use repeatedly in my academic preparedness workshops and sessions, namely “Everything in life is the same,” and of course, the sacred, “Is Learning Occurring?” I was even permitted to credit them as my own (and Learning Occurring might well have been mine originally; I forget now) but I usually cited him. It took many many months before I could mention in front of a class again that everything in life was the same.
I tell you, the echo of those songs and phrases is far more haunting even than the empty armchair and the abandoned desk, the dusty unused wineglasses or the leather coat which still hangs in the hall closet; I have got to get rid of that sometime soon. Well it was the same about my mother. I happily use the Cross pen set I bought her and which my father permitted me to take back, and her bread machine even though Daisy-Dog ate the cookbook, but if I hear any echo of her suggesting that if I made fun of her just as she was going to tell me something, she was NEVER going to tell me what she had been about to say, I just melt. The two of them collide sometimes if anyone hands me something with which I have no idea what to do and I hear his voice saying, “Here, give this to your mother to hold.” Now, my sister will rightly point out that the actual quote, as uttered by my father when he needed to divest himself of some encumbrance, was “Give this to your mother so she can hold it,” but the simple fact is that Dan never got it right and did so repeatedly for twenty years, so what I hear in my head is his version. My poor brother-in-law, gamely attending to the thousand little mishaps which accrue in a house over a year and a half, has no idea why I burst into tears while he was fixing my porch railing. It’s just that his hands were full and he needed to use the drill so he turned, gestured to me to hold out my hand, and deposited two rusty bent nails. Dan said, promptly, “Give these to your mother to hold,” and he — they — were right there and the rush of air past my ears might have been the blood running from my head prelude to a brief blackout or it might have been the both of them passing through with Maggie-Dog and Brown Doggie flying close at their heels.