One Red Flower
The heat of the summer reminds me of him. He would always appear as the temperatures warmed, and by the time the leaves began to change, he was gone.
I was around 11 years old when he gave up on finding a decent job at one of the many local universities in tobacco country; the triangle area that encompasses Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. He said God had led him to Dallas, Texas. It meant seeing him sporadically, mostly at Christmas and on Summer vacations. I jumped at the chance to be included in his adventure, and we hopped into his 79’ blue Buick with no air conditioner and began our journey across the country. He bragged about the heat being over 100 degrees , but all I knew was my legs, clad in my cut-off levi shorts, were completely stuck to the old blue vinyl of the bench seats. I took photos with my new One-Step Polaroid camera of the Great Smokey mountains as we passed through Tennessee, and marveled at all of the signs warning of the possibility of falling rocks. My dad, the music lover, told me all about Buddy Holy and Elvis Presley as we listened to Blue Suede Shoes and drove through Memphis, windows down, Pal Mal smoke softly lifting up and out through the window and into the hazy, blue sky. Dallas brought us country music as the landscape changed to flat, and men in starched Wrangler jeans and cowboy hats dominated. It also brought me Taco Bueno, and dad talked to me about Mexico as I ate this sloppy thing called a burrito, swallowing it down with a Dr. Pepper. The yellow and the blues faded into golden orange. He always left us in the Fall.
We went to visit his grave today. Me, my husband, and my 10 year old daughter. He didn’t want to be buried in Durham, North Carolina. He fought too hard to get out of there. Hell, he didn’t want to be buried at all. He wanted to be cremated and travel with us wherever we went. His wedding gift to me was a brand-new set of luggage and a coffee table book of London. We passed by an old apartment complex in Durham on the way home, and an odd feeling came over me as I looked ate the large, pre war wrought iron windows, that I had been there before. I was hit with a sudden rush of memory. One summer day years ago, my brother and I were in the living room of those old apartments with its hardwood floors and massive windows that let the sun shine in like a glowing orb, reflecting off of the shiny floors and white walls. The big TV sitting on a tray, the kind we called “TV trays”, because we would pull them up to the sofa and eat dinner on them. Danny and I were fighting over the channels like two dogs fighting over a tennis ball. The next thing I knew, dad was storming through the room, words coming from his mouth in a series that I couldn’t even comprehend. He was wearing nothing but a pair of white boxer shorts, the TV in his arms, rabbit ears wrapped in aluminum foil smashed to the floor. I don’t remember anything after that, but its no wonder why I have anxiety today.
Returning to the present, I glance into the back seat at my precious child, and try to imagine what she would do if she saw her own dad pulI off such a dramatic feat. I can’t. I left a red flower on his grave. The fake one I bought at the Charlotte IKEA and still had in my car. It was the only one there. My dad. The dying grass, and one red flower.