we brought the jelly jar and the tealight with us, anticipating a chance to privately and quietly celebrate his life.
the lake was the place. there were clear fishing bobbers on the shoreline, waiting for us to discover them, to wonder if somehow they were his. there were glowing golden aspens and burning orange underbrush bushes, crows crowing and fishermen cussing the ones that got away. and it was perfect.
we lit the candle and found the right flat rock to place it on. we toasted columbus and sat back and watched the candle dance and burn and flicker.
we were there way longer than we thought we’d be. it was serene; it was a direct line to him. and it was exactly where we needed to be.
we had no place to stay that night and i wished we had our tent, sleeping bags and camping stove. the lake asked us to stay. we asked it for a rain check. another day, we promised.
we will come prepared to stay, to watch the sun set and a new day rise. and he’ll be there, cheering us on.
my poppo would probably have liked chip hailstone. an as-long-as-i-can-remember subscriber of national geographic, i imagine he would have liked the show ‘life below zero’. he was good at solving problems, figuring things out, making stuff out of nothing. his words of wisdom were simple. “plan ahead,” he would say. he was a card-holding-club-member-regular-reader of the handyman magazine; he easily could have been a contributing writer. he would have loved chip hailstone’s comment, “you can make a long piece of wood short, but you can’t make a short piece of wood long.” ahyup. it’s in the details. plan ahead.
we were coffee-sitting around the kitchen table. it was a late florida morning, years ago now, and coffee break time was an every-day thing. my dad suddenly got up from his chair and left the room, using his “stick” to get to the bedroom and back. he returned moments later and started to speak. “i have something for you, brat,” he started. “with these years on your own you have learned so much out of necessity. it’s time for you to have this. you have earned it.” he handed me his handyman club membership card and said, “this is yours now. i’m proud of you.”
it was big news to get this card from my poppo and i didn’t underestimate its import. it would not have made me more gratified to receive a grammy award. his -my- membership card is in plain view in my studio, reminding me of my dad and his words to me.
we watch ‘life below zero’ episodes and there are simple wisdoms dancing throughout the show. things i can hear my dad say in his brooklyn accent. things you think, “well, duh, of course.” the same things you realize after-the-fact that you should have thought about before-the-fact. yup, poppo. plan ahead.