Bio Note: It's summer vacation time and I'm remembering the months-long camping trips we used to take when I was a kid, how these trips were practically the only times I saw my father not working (though still managing not to relax). He's been gone for over 30 years now, but he's still very present in my mind.
Dad Says He Has a Job for Me
I ride through date groves from Indio to Coachella. In a small office in the corner of the chemical plant, my spot is a desk where I type up orders scrawled by salesmen who can find surprising ways to spell DeBonne and Vladimir. It’s pleasant here; the grownups crack jokes, play music, while Dad is in the field. When his pickup is spied in the driveway, word goes out and comes back in like a cold wind. Backs straighten, conversation freezes, souls shiver as we get a read on his mood. At quitting time we drive home, Dad and I, my bike in the bed of the pickup, a handful of words between us, him singing along to a country song, squinting into the sun.
The Nicest Man
Near the end, all his fierceness is gone. Stroke-softened, trembling from Parkinson’s, mind veiled by dementia, this boulder of a man whose temper terrorized employees and family alike, spends his days hunched before the TV watching M*A*S*H reruns and the Iran-Contra hearings (I’ve always been a Republican, but now I’m not so sure, he tells me). One morning I find the TV tuned to PBS. Dad! You’re watching Mr. Rogers! The frightening vehemence back in his face, he turns to me and growls, THAT is the NICEST man!
©2020 Tamara Madison
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