Posts Tagged ‘Margaret-Dawn Thacker’

Jade East

July 22, 2012

There is nothing romantic about cleaning a bathroom. Rusted razor blades hide in the medicine cabinet. Strands of hair stick to porcelain surfaces. The wrappers on band aids in a hinged-top metal box are so old they fall apart with only slight pressure of thumb and index finger. I’m on my knees, cardboard box to my left, trashcan to my right, sorting my father’s medicinal, toiletry, and cleaning supplies. It’s hot in here and the humidity of a June day in Chesapeake is almost unbearable. My limp hair won’t stay put in its rubber band and falls into my face as I reach way back into the cabinet for the last bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a half empty can of shaving cream. I’m trying to salvage what’s left. My dad doesn’t need this stuff anymore. He died on Mother’s Day.

I always hated cleaning the bathroom, my least favorite chore, and I always got stuck with it. I lean back against the tub, close my eyes, and wipe the back of my hand across my sweaty forehead. My Dad’s radio in the dining room croons an old, sad country song. None of us likes hillbilly music, but no one has the courage to change his station. I hear my step-sister in the kitchen, rattling glassware, arranging it for the auction house to pick up. In another room, one of the girls exclaims over an old photograph. “I haven’t seen this in years.”

We’re all here, minus our parents, my father, their mother, both dead within a year of each other. It’s their house and we feel like interlopers and thieves, deciding which items to take home with us, which to sell, which to donate, which to throw away. Every piece we touch goes into a box, even the objects that have held a place of honor for years. Rooms empty one memento at a time.

“I’d like this little pewter clown,” my step-sister calls from the other room.

“Put it in your box,” I call. My step-mother collected clowns, had hundreds of them. My father collected frogs. I’d most likely find a small one to place in my box to remember him.

The cabinet under the sink is bare. I rise and look at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Evidently, I am an adult now. I think it happened May 13th.

Shaking my head, and looking away, I open the wooden cabinet on the wall above the toilet. My father’s salves, liniments, after shave lotions and razors display themselves in neat colorful order from tallest to shortest. Some are still new in the package and others are waiting for him to return to finish their contents. I open each container, judge its usefulness, its age. I toss his Carmex lip balm and the ever-present tin of Cuticura ointment, underarm deodorant, and a 1960’s safety razor.

The last item is a clear bottle with green liquid. I’ve never seen it before. The label is black with a green and gold border. Asian characters above the words JADE EAST are written in a bamboo shaped font. I unscrew the black cap and inhale. I close my eyes and swear my father is standing right there in front of me. It is his scent. I thought I had lost that forever, but here it is in this square glass bottle.

I run into the other room and call my step-sisters to me. We pass the bottle around and I watch my own reaction repeat itself with each girl. We take turns dabbing a drop behind our ears, enjoying my dad’s spicy scent. Leslie hands the bottle to me. “You should keep this,” she says.

I hold the bottle to my chest. I’d offer it to them, but can’t bring myself to. I want this treasure. I want to be able to open the top and find my dad when I need his presence. I never knew my father wore cologne, never thought about it. I did know his scent though. No other man in my life carried it.

I walk back into the bathroom and place the bottle of Jade East carefully into my cardboard box of keepsakes.

There was Only One Mike Powell

May 28, 2012

This Memorial Day is especially hard for me. My Dad passed away on May 13th after battling Lymphoma. He was a career Navy man, twenty-two years in the Navy (USS Iowa and the USS America), then worked twenty-two years Civil Service. The walls of his office at home were decorated with plaques and certificates of commendation. He was so proud of his country.

I wore his Navy ring on a chain around my neck today in his honor and below is the piece I put together for the minister to read at his funeral. On this day of remembrance, I have a new and much better understanding of the sacrifice and service of our veterans.  I will miss you Daddy.

 

I remember his visits when I was a little girl. He came fresh off the ocean, tall, handsome, and bearing gifts:  a set of dolls with costumes and matching hats, a tiny leather purse with a “Paris” label,  a royal blue tapestry decorated with solid white kittens, and the best present of all, his time.   

I knelt on the couch, holding the sheers back, my faced pressed to the glass, waiting.  He drove a shiny blue car. I got to ride up front with him. He pulled to the curb, looked up into the mirror, ran his hand through his wavy hair and put on his sunglasses. 

 I jumped down from the couch and ran outside to meet him, a whirlwind of arms, legs, ruffles and ribbons.  He picked me up and swung me around, laughing and calling me doll baby.  Mama handed him my overnight bag.  I never looked back.

 My Daddy and I had fun. We went to the Gypsy Hill Park, rode the little train through the tunnel. He folded up his long legs so he could sit beside me, his strong arm wrapped around my shoulder, his sunglasses on my nose. He smelled like spice and his face was a little scratchy. We laughed and ate ice cream and drove fast with the top of the car folded down behind the back seat.  My hair blew into my eyes, and it didn’t matter.

 “I bet Grandma fixed a good dinner for us. We’d better head over there before we’re late and get in trouble,” he said, laughing.

 Those two days with him went as fast as the previous six months went slow. On my way back home in the car, I couldn’t talk. I was too busy holding back tears.  “No tears,” my Daddy said, “we’ve had too much fun to cry.”

 He carried me to the apartment door, my fingers holding tight to the back of his shirt. As he left, my sound was a wail; my grief, determined.  Daddy had gone back to sea and my Mama knelt down before me.  “I found something special for you while you were gone,” she said with her hands behind her back.

 I looked up, tears running off my chin.  I couldn’t talk.  She smiled at me and presented me with a small, orange-striped kitten.  I reached out and took the ball of soft fur. I held him in my arms as I cried, my tears making wet spots on him.  He was nice, but he wasn’t my Daddy.

 I realized early on that nothing  or no one could take the place of my Daddy.  There was only one Mike Powell.