Remember daddy, when you made a radio from scratch. A small light yellow box with an open back containing a fascinating array of tubes, wires, and the string with a safety pin dangling down by a thumbtack so we could tap it back to life with a sizzle. I remember the smell of warm tubes as they struggled to stay alive through at least one hour of broadcasting. You took the trouble to round out the corners, perhaps because you had at least one daughter who was accident prone.
I remember when you were kneeling by the icebox in the kitchen. I was six or seven then. I knew you were inventing something.
“Daddy, what were you doing to the icebox. I remember you fiddling with it when I was a little girl.” You said, “Oh yes. The block of ice would melt so fast that it had to be emptied often. I rigged up a tube for the drain pan and put a hole on the outside of the house to drain it.” Simple. You fixed it.
Daddy remember when you built a cage in our backyard for my chickens at our first house in Orange. The first one was a banty hen that fell off a chicken truck as it sped through town. A man in the neighborhood found another hen, a black shiny one, and gave it to me. At the time I didn’t know it wasn’t wise to let chickens free-range in the backyard. A dog got the black one. I saw. I screamed. Too late. My banty hen Belinda moved to Almond Ave. with us.
I remember daddy, when we lived on Almond Ave. in Orange. You would play checkers with the neighborhood kids. You let them win. However, Scrabble was another story. You always won that game. You memorized the dictionary on the Navy ship as well as the Bible.
Remember daddy, when you taught me to drive our Chevy Bel-Air with the big wings on the back. Mother remembers. I decided to take it for a solo drive. When I got to our slanted driveway, it seemed too steep. I hit the long pedal and lurched forward over the neighbor’s bush into their bedroom wall. They didn’t like the remodel. You fixed it.
I remember when you and mother attended separate churches. I was twelve. She liked to wear her furs and jewelry like the other women in the glass-domed sanctuary. At the church you attended the women wore long sleeve dresses and no make-up.
To bribe us to go to church on a Wednesday, you’d say, “I’ll get you an ice-cream at Thriftys.” We couldn’t resist. My sister Becky would wrinkle her face until the freckles bumped together and her curly red hair would bounce as she said, “Let’s see who can eat the slowest.” We licked our hands more than the cone. I always lost.
Remember when you would take us for hikes in the “wilds” of the San Bernardino Mountains. You led the way with your walking stick. You were in your own zone, so we had to help each other up the craggy sides and balance like birds on logs over streams. You didn’t talk. Mountain goats don’t talk. You took us to secret places where a knotted rope hung from a high tree, swung us over a bowl-shaped gully where a rock pool shaped from water erosion in a stream invited us to swim you would keep going and later come back by then we were dry.
I remember when I asked you about the drink mixer you made by hand for your Ovaltine and Postum. You made it out of some kind of motor, a pear can and a hand-carved wooden handle with a screw as the power button. You said, “I made that on a Sunday afternoon at home in Canada. The boss of the bible college, Mr. Maxwell, knocked on my door to check on me. He saw what I was making and immediately rebuked me,”
“This is a day of rest, you are breaking the Lord’s Sabbath.” I said, “I wasn’t working, me and the Lord were having a good time putting this together.” I’m sure glad I asked. I still have that mixer.
Remember when you called me from Corona. “Hello daughter,” You spoke with a cotton-soft voice. “Can you help me pick up a table that was thrown in the trash. Is your car big enough?”
“I don’t know daddy, how big is the table?”
“What kind of car do you drive?”
“A Subaru Forester.”
“It should fit. When can you get here?”
“I’m just under an hour away, depending on traffic.” You never called me for help. I jumped in my car and drove. You fixed the broken leg and gave it to a Mexican family. That was the kind of broken thing you could fix.
I remember daddy when you looked at me with your little boy face and said, “I’m at the end of my path.” You were a shell stretched over a skeleton by then it barely held you upright in that wheelchair.
“Daddy, I’m going with you to the end of your path.” Your eyebrows pointed upwards and your eyes grew round.
“Yes daddy, I will.” And I did.