Thursday, March 05, 2009

a la Dad

The microwave buzzes as does the air around us.  We stand across from each other, Dad on one side of the counter, me on the other.  We are poised for these 10 seconds in time, spoons in hand.  The ice cream has been put back in the freezer, the chocolate syrup back in the fridge.  The only thing left to do, is wait.

This is our tradition.  We melt our vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.  Not to a milkshake consistency, just for a little softness.  It's easier on Dad's sensitive teeth and I just like whatever my dad likes.  

The back deck is the place for ice cream.  A summer night is the best time.  We each have a chair, sit back far, and a there's a homemade bench for leg-propping.  Ice cream bowls held with left-hand against chests, we slowly slurp spoonful after spoonful and look up at the stars.  The Dipper is ours – really, either one – it's ours.  Just mine and my Dad's.  The first time I stayed away from home, he told me to look up into the sky and that if we could both see the Dipper, then we couldn't be that far away from each other.  That has worked from slumber party, to summer camp, to New York City.

I miss my dad a lot.  His corny jokes, “Knock knock” - “Who's there?” - “Hotch.” - “Hotch who?” - “God bless you,” he says with a grin.  

My dad is solid, was Room Father in second grade and then in third grade, he brought coins from Africa and gave them to my entire class!  At my 10 year reunion, Lorie Perraut told me she still had hers.  My dad took a job on 3rd shift when I got to Middle School and our time was a little cut into.  We left Post-Its for each other every day.  He got home in the morning in time to put us on the bus and then tried to sleep while we were at school.  Pretty hard task for a country boy who's whole life has been 4:30am wake-up calls to milk the cows.  My dad aged and tired right in front of our eyes in those send-me-to-college years... in those put-clothes-on-my-back years and food-on-our-table years.  A retired man now, he's a cowboy again, romping over our farm on a 4-wheeler with my Uncle Jeff as they check their cattle and keep an eye on the “neighbors”... you know, the ones crowding in on the “back ten”... acres, that is.  

My dad nodded off in church every Sunday during those years, but he didn't miss often.  Religion by osmosis maybe, but we could never beg off since he never did.  

My dad stayed up with me til sunrise one winter night when I woke up screaming.  I was 100% sure that a rapist was in my closet.  The dream was so real and I swore I saw a face.  My dad checked it out – all it really took was turning on the lights – but he saw how shaken I was, blankets tucked up tightly under my chin.  He made ice cream, our way, and we ate it in the living room.  Stood with our backs to the wood-burning stove, the heat pressing up against our backsides and thighs.  (I like to take the heat as long as possible and then run to the couch and sit down, feel it run up my spine, glorious.) We talked until dawn that night... talked about life, about death, about jealous girls, and boys' initials on my notebooks... about what I want to be when I grow up... about growing up.  

With my dad, I feel safe and taken care of and worth his time.  

I always look forward to ice cream a la Dad.  We hold our bowls to our lips and slurp up the very last bit of chocolately goodness.  And we smile.  Contented.  The company sweeter than the confection.