nonfiction, original fiction, personal

[writing][biographic] My Dad: A Series of Vignettes

A knock on my door.

“Can I come in?” My dad’s voice sounded muffled on the other side of the door. Setting aside Ricky, my raccoon stuffed animal, I sat up.

“Yeah. Come in.”

I knew what was gonna happen. I was going to talk. He was going to listen, and then he was going to talk. Somewhere in the process, the hate and the sadness inside would be banked down for another day.

I can never say no when my Dad knocks on my door.

-Super Hero Dad-

“WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?” Dad’s voice rose as he strode into the kitchen.

Martin’s wild shrieking eased a little as the laughter died down and Joy’s arms tightened around his small shoulders.

“They were just scaring him with a plastic grasshopper.”
“What?” Dad asked, staring down at the non-offending life-like toy.

I grinned. Marcia snorted.

“Just a bit of fun,” I shrugged. “We’ll stop.”
“Really, guys,” Dad sighed.
“Look, look,” Joy tried to console the three-year-old. “It’s just fake. It isn’t real.”

Clutching Martin closer, she leaned down to pick up the grasshopper. Martin screamed even louder, sobbing and shuddering. Dad glared at his elder children. Josh sighed. The girls rolled their eyes.

“He’ll get over it,” I said. “Eventually.”
“What is happening?” Mom bobbled in to check on her spaghetti sauce. “Guys, what are you doing to Martin?”
“It was a joke.”
“Just a bit of fun-”
“Look, Martin, it isn’t real! It’s PLASTIC!”

More screaming.

“STOP IT.” Dad grabbed a knife. “Look. I’m gonna get rid of it, Martin. OK?” He stabbed the plastic bug, picked it up, went down to the side door, opened it, and slammed it shut a few seconds later. “There.” He said, returning to Martin. “It’s dead. And out of the house.”
“But is it though?” I asked, noting the bulge in his vest pocket.

Martin swiveled around on Joy’s lap with instant relief. “All gone?” he asked.

“All gone,” Dad smiled.

-Encourager-

As he passed by John Mark and Martin’s bedroom, Jesse could just barely hear the familiar ramblings of his younger brother. He kept walking. Above him, the rise and fall of sharp voices emanated from the kitchen. Kitchen cupboards creaked open and slammed shut. The groceries were being put away. Musing over whether he should check what ice cream had been chosen for the week, Jesse hesitated.

“Jess,” Dad said, his voice heard before his feet and legs came into view as he descended the stairs to the basement. “Have you seen John Mark?”
“Seen? No,” Jesse shook his head. “He’s in his room, I think. I heard his voice. He’s talking to himself. Again.”
“OK. I’ll check there first.”
“Did Joy say something mean again?” asked Jesse.

Dad just sighed. He made his way to the bedroom that the two youngest Veldman children shared. The boys, as all the boys before them, had been installed in the Wood Street home’s walk in basement. This particular room, adjacent to the furnace, was the least well lit and the warmest. Dad knocked.

“John Mark.” He paused. “Can I come in?”
“.…Yeah.”

Dad found John Mark sitting on his bed. The teen’s face was red. He had clearly been crying.

“Your mother is talking with Joy,” Dad sat down beside his young son. “She will apologize.”
“Sure,” John Mark said glumly, sniffling a little.
“What she said was wrong,” Dad said.
“Yeah.” A pause. “I know…”
“And untrue,” Dad added. “You know that, right?”

John Mark hesitated. Dad drew him into a hug. Wiping away his tears quickly, John Mark hugged his dad back. Years later, when he recalled the event, he couldn’t remember exactly what had hurt him so badly. All he remembered was the comfort of his dad. The hug stayed with him forever.

-Provider-

“I’m so thirsty,” Jesse complained. “Why can’t we have a van with proper air conditioning?”

It was a rhetorical question; the answer already known. After the death of Freddie, a “new” Veldman van had finally arrived – but Parker was already proving to be less than reliable. Both of the front windows were rolled down. The side windows were pushed out, yet the summer humidity stuffed itself into the vehicle, making it unbearably warm.

“It’s pretty hot out,” Dad agreed. He rolled into a familiar small parking lot – the 7-11 plaza. “I can treat you guys out to a Big Gulp. Coke? Or root beer?”
“Root beer!”
“Yeah! Root beer!”
“Sure,” Joseph shrugged.
“I’m up for whatever,” Sihaam agreed.

A few minutes later, Dad returned bearing a mega-sized Big Gulp in hand. Gaudy lettering on the side of the large plastic cup. Ice and pop sloshing about inside. Dad took a sip from the big fat blue straw.

“Take a sip,” he said. “Everyone take turns.”

Sihaam sipped and passed it back to Joseph. Joseph took a long draw and passed it to Jesse. Jesse took a big gulp. Joy hit him lightly.

“Pig!” She said.
“Hey!” John Mark whined from the back. “Jesse’s drinking too much!”
“Jesse!”
“Chill,” Jesse rolled his eyes. “There’ll be a refill.”
“Stop hogging the drink, you two!” Joseph growled, snatching the drink back from John Mark and handing it back to Dad.
“Boys,” Dad said, wagging a finger. “You know when it is too much.”

He took his second sip and the cycle repeated. More arguing ensued about who was sipping longer than usual, but eventually the big gulp was finished.

“Refreshing,” Sihaam sighed.
“Yeah!” Dad smiled, opening the car door with a large grin. “And they’ve got free refills!”
“Yay!” Jesse cheered. “I told you guys! Free refills.”
“Free refills,” echoed Joy snarkily. “Doesn’t mean you can just swill it down.”
“Get Cream Soda this time!” John Mark yelled from the back.
“Swamp water!” Sihaam suggested.
“EW! Noooo!” Joseph said. “Coke.”

Ignoring his squabbling kids, Dad headed back inside the 7-11 for his free refill. With a puckish grin, he returned, took a sip, handed the drink cup to Sihaam, and started his van up.

“Gotta get back home. Your mom will be wondering what has happened to us,” he said.

-Spiritual Mentor-

“It is such a beautiful day out,” Dad said, sipping on his medium double double.

Sitting next to him, Joy sighed contentedly in agreement. Before her, a medium apple cinnamon tea sat cooling. Dad’s ‘treat’ for the week after grocery shopping at the local No Frills.

The broad blue skies of Ottawa beckoned: a beautiful late summer day complete with puffy white clouds, chirping birds, and humming cicadas. At night, a chill was starting to set in – the promise of a northern Canadian autumn, complete with brilliantly colored trees and gusty winds.

“It’s so nice up here. I am already ready for autumn,” Joy said, sipping her tea carefully.
“Thinking of maybe…” Dad paused in thought, rubbing his grizzled beard. “…Maybe I should pick up some more wood. Your mother would like a fire tonight.”
“Oooh. A fire? Hm. I second that.”
“You staying over tonight?” asked Dad.
“Yeah. Of course. I’ll be hitching a ride to church with you guys tomorrow morning.”

A pause. The two watched the traffic flow gently by, talking about specific weekend plans. As usual, the topic of conversation drifted to what Dad had been meditating on for the week.

“Been reading Isaiah,” he said. “Thinking about Isaiah 6 verse 3. You know that one?”“What is it about?” asked Joy, racking her brain and coming up blank.

Dad pulled out his phone and peered at the screen. “Isaiah… 6…. 3….” There was a long moment of silence as he found and opened his favorite Bible reading app. “Ah. Here it is. I love this app. I can always have the Bible with me… Although I do prefer having the actual Bible, you know. But this is fine for just having on hand. So… It’s about what the seraphim say around his throne. They say: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.’”
“The whole earth is full of His glory,” Joy echoed thoughtfully.
“Yeah,” Dad nodded. “Today, I really feel it. Of course, it can be less easy to remember when we are going through difficult situations or-”
“Living in Hamilton?” Joy gave him an impish grin.

Dad laughed. “Even in Hamilton. It’s so… encouraging… I don’t know. To know that He is everywhere,” Dad gestured at the Timmies dining room. “It gives me great reassurance. These beautiful days we’ve been having lately, we should be so thankful for. I hope I never take it for granted. See it for what it is – God’s provision and work in our world.”

Joy nodded and leaned back, allowing Dad to plunge into a long fifteen minute rhapsody about God’s handiwork. It is, she thought, the perfect Saturday morning one could wish for.

-Playful-

“Is he gone?”
“I think so.”
“Let’s wait a bit.”
“How long do we have to wait?”

Joseph, John Mark, and Jesse lay in their beds, straining their ears for the fading footsteps of their father. It was eight o’clock. Bedtime. The boys, however, just couldn’t get to sleep. They moved restlessly under their covers while waiting for their parents to settle down in their bedroom.

“I think he’s gone.”
“Let’s watch something.”
“No. Too risky.” Joseph paused. “Plus, we’d just argue about what we’d wanna watch. We should just do the usual.”
“Hockey?”
“Where’s the ball?” asked Jesse.
“The sticks are by the coats. I’ve got the ball here.”

A rustling sound. Joseph, the eldest of the younger set of Veldman boys, crept out of his bed, slowly turned the knob of his door and opened it, and peered out cautiously. No sign of Dad anywhere.

“The coast is clear!”
“Who’s gonna be goalie?” asked Jesse. “Can I be goalie this time?”
“We can take turns,” Jo said. “And we can’t be too noisy.”
“Yeah,” whispered John Mark.

Grabbing their favorite mini sticks and ball, the three boys got down to a mean game of hockey. How much time went by, they didn’t know, but at some point, Joseph swung around and caught sight of his father. He was just sitting there on the stairs watching his truant sons. How long he sat there, Joseph never knew.

Dad shook his head and raised his voice a little, “Boys! What are you doing out of bed playing hockey at this time of night?!”

The boys fled immediately to their bedroom, slamming the door behind them and hopping into bed. John Mark was giggling hysterically.

“Oh man! Oh man!”
“We’re in deep crap,” grunted Joseph. “I told you guys to be quiet!”

They lay there for a while before realizing that their father hadn’t followed them. Their unwanted audience had disappeared as quickly as he had come. There were no further games that particular night.

-Father-

“You just do what I say,” Dad said, looking down at the eager face of his third daughter. “Su – what -”“Yeah?” Sihaam straightened after adjusting her gum boots. Her outfit was a bizarre clash of a flowery dress, bright blue pants underneath, and red boots.“Never mind,” sighed Dad. “Just be quiet. Go out to the van and wait.”“OK!”

Sihaam was excited. She had finally graduated to the ‘big kids’ group! For the first time ever, she was being allowed to help deliver papers. For the seven-and-a-half year old, it felt like a dream come true. It was the best Saturday morning ever. Climbing into the red family van, she found her designated seat in the back.

Christina sat quietly in the front seat. Behind the driver’s seat, Marcia huddled by the window, clearly trying to grab a bit more sleep. Neither of her older sisters handled waking up at five in the morning very well. The boys, Josh and David, were a bit more awake, but nobody was in a talking mood. It felt like a very serious mission.

Dad got in the front.

“Just had to grab my Bible,” he said. “Well, let’s get this done, guys. And remember, double check the instructions if you aren’t sure. Two people complained.”“Ugh,” Christina sighed.“Don’t ‘ugh’ me,” Dad said. “If it says side door, put it in the side door. If it says milk box – and David, let Josh fold the papers if it is going into the slot.”

The van started up with a grind, and the group were off down the silent alley of Homewood Avenue. In the grey light of early morning, they arrived at the Hamilton Spectator depot, picked up the heavy paper bundles, rechecking the list for new or missing clients.

Within the hour, they were all split up. The boys had been dropped off at the top of one street. Marcia and Christina left at another street. Sihaam moved up to the front seat of the van, unable to contain her excitement. On her left, the van’s door had been pulled back, fully open. She watched with fascination as the sidewalk slowly slid away as Dad navigated to another street. It felt thrilling to ride in the van with door open and no seat belt on.

The van came to a halt. Dad sat in the front seat, checking the list and mumbling to himself, his bulk a grey, mysterious shadow in his young daughter’s eyes. Since he was up at four-thirty every morning and worked until five every night, Dad rarely spent alone time with any of his kids. For the first time, Sihaam felt like she had him all to herself.

“Su.”
“Yeah!” Sihaam edged forward. “Can I deliver a paper?”
“A nice easy one for you.” Dad leaned down and pulled a paper up, folding the thick wad in half. “Carry it under your arm. Walk up the front walk there. Number 45. You open the screen door, drop the paper in with the fold down, and shut the screen door. Don’t bang it.”
“OK!”

Following her father’s instruction to the T, Sihaam delivered her first paper. Clambering back into the vehicle, she reassured him that the paper was behind the screen door and that it had closed properly. He smiled and nodded, drove down a little further, folded another paper and directed her again to another house.

When all the papers for both paper routes had been delivered, all of the kids were treated to one soft, warm cookie from 7-11. As they slowly ate their reward, Dad read a chapter from Proverbs. After talking about the passage together, the family returned home to find Mom awake, sitting in her purple PJ gown and writing a list.

“No Frills and Food Basics,” Dad said, looking it over. “I heard there was a sale on fresh veggies there.”
“Did I put cumin on the list?” asked Mom. “I need cumin.”
“Yeah. I can get it no name.” Dad paused and looked around. “Maybe I should take someone with me shopping. Where is David?”

Sihaam was hopping up and down at his elbow.

“Take me! Take me!”

Dad eyed Sihaam thoughtfully. “Well, you did well on the route this morning.”

“Did you?” Mom asked Sihaam indulgently.
“I delivered over ten papers all by myself,” Sihaam said. “I can totally push the cart in the store for Dad.”
“Well,” said Mom. “Remember that you still have to clean your bedroom with Marcia later on.”
“OK!”
“Get your boots back on,” Dad said. “We’re heading out in five.”

It was the best Saturday ever.

-Shopper-

Dad had his pen out, writing in painstakingly small lettering onto a small scrap of paper. David tried to patiently wait by the van, but it was hard not to edge down the row of parked cars in the Food Basics parking lot. There was a car at the end of the row that that looked like one of his favorite Hot Rod toys.

“Now I have everything,” Dad said, looking down at his young son, who was now bouncing up and down. “David. Remember what we talked about.”

David stopped and rolled his eyes. It seemed like most of his life he was being admonished. ‘Watch David.’ ‘David, what are you doing?’ ‘Where are you going, David?’ ‘David, what were you thinking?’ After a long four days being stuck inside learning with Mom and his siblings, it was hard for the energetic young boy not to zip up and down the parking lot rows. Still, he stuck close to Dad, knowing that this would be one of his only chances to talk to his father and be outside the house at the same time.

“No running around. No shouting,” David sighed. “I know all this stuff.”
“That’s what your older sister says. All the time.” Dad shook his head. “Knowing isn’t doing.”
“Can I get some stuff by myself today?” David asked, eyeing what looked now like a small list on top of the larger one Mom had written.
“Maybe,” Dad said. “Let’s get a cart.”

The two entered Food Basics with David pushing the cart under Dad’s sort of watchful eye. David already knew where to go. Times spent with Dad shopping on Saturday morning had taught David his father’s shopping routine. Before long the two were back at the red van, piling stuff in.

“Be careful, David,” Dad said, pulling a bag of bread hastily and putting it on top of a stack of cans. “We don’t want the bread squished.”

With the groceries stowed away, David pushed the cart into the cart storage. When he proudly got into the front seat, he smiled at the sight of his favourite treat – powdered white donuts. Dad pried the small plastic container open and offered a donut to his shopping helper.

“Thanks,” David said, biting into the soft deliciousness enthusiastically.
“How’s school going?” asked Dad.
“OK.”

The conversation slowly wended through a variety of topics, starting with school and ending with cars and Dad’s memories of his favourite motorcycle. David savoured the moment, eating the donuts slowly. Dad checked his watch, yelped.

“Oops,” he started up the van after stashing the rest of the donuts away under his seat. “She’s going to want to know where we got to.”

David’s bright eyes darted about, noticing the new piles of trash accumulating on the bridge over the train tracks. Noticing a new garden growing at the front of the old dingy house he was scouting the other day. Noticing a black cat prowling by the church. Noticing how strong his dad looked, his broad hands guiding the large van down the streets back home. David imagined himself grown up with his own car, speeding down the road. He couldn’t wait.

-Protector-

“These people are so loud,” Mom said, her voice lowered yet critical.

The small hospital room which her daughter Marcia shared with another patient was far from optimal. After a tough labour and emergency C-Section, Marcia was in tears. Her newborn, Des, had been whisked off to NICU due to complications. Unable to move, Marcia tried to ignore the happy celebrations on the other side of the thin curtain. Someone else’s baby seemed to be doing all right. Not mine. She began to cry again.

“He should be alright,” she said, trying to dry her tears. Her hands shook a little from the shock. “I hope he’s alright.”
“I am sure he is,” agreed Mom, squeezing her daughter’s hand gently. “The doctors seemed to know what they were doing.” Another round of laughter and cooing drew her attention away. She frowned and whispered to Dad, “I get that they had a successful delivery, that’s nice… but this is… TOO loud.”
“We will keep praying that the doctors have wisdom… That Des will be OK…” Dad said quietly and calmly, his words becoming a prayer.
“That’s… that’s great,” Mom said, watching another family member pass by. “But this is NOT right.”

He glanced around and caught Mom’s eye. There were quite a few people now, celebrating the newborn baby. One side of the small room was filled with celebration. On the other side, anxiety and fear lowered. Marcia lay back on the bed, holding her mother’s hand. His usually strong and independent daughter was crying again, clearly distraught.

“Bert,” Mom hissed at Dad. “You have to do something.”

Dad nodded. Slipping away, he circled around the ward, noting that almost all the rooms were empty. Running his hand over his bald head, Dad wondered, What is going on here? He returned to Marcia’s room.

“The whole ward is almost empty,” he said. “I don’t get it.”
“Bert,” Mom said, sotto voce. “Your voice…” She gestured for it to lower. “Almost empty?”
“Yes, I don’t get it.”
“This isn’t right,” Mom shook her head. “She should be able to move to another room.”
“I’m going to see if something can be done,” he said.

Now determined, Dad approached the nurses’ station with a firm smile.

“Hi, I was wondering if I could ask a favour of you,” he began.
“How can I help?” asked the nurse briskly.
“Well, it’s my daughter. She had a really rough labour… and we don’t know if our grandson is going to be alright… or not. So, she’s not really emotionally… She’s emotionally really fragile right now.” Dad explained. “Honestly, considering how many rooms are empty, I don’t see why she had to share a room with another family. I was wondering if we could move her to a private room. I’ll pay extra for it. She really needs quiet… alone… time.”

Within half an hour, Marcia was moved to another room. It’s funny, she told me years later. I was a “grown up”, but he still behaved like the Dad I knew when I was a kid.

-(Fairly) Patient Teacher-

“Josh is driving again?” asked Christina, stopping at the sight of her slight brother getting in the driver’s seat.
“Oh no,” Marcia groaned.
“Or you two could walk,” Dad said, giving his two eldest girls a look.
“No,” Christina said quickly. “I’m good. I’m good.”

Dad pulled the front passenger seat forward, allowing the two girls to get in and stuff themselves into the cramped back of the grey-blue, second-hand Mazda.

It was Tuesday morning, and the three eldest Veldman children were off to SJAM. Going to high school was still a new experience for everyone. It was exhilarating. As was Josh’s driving. Dad had been taking Josh out for ‘driving lessons’ for a couple weeks now. The two had practiced in empty parking lots and more or less empty country roads. Now, it seemed that Dad was confident Josh could handle a small jaunt in Hamilton traffic on a Monday morning.

“It will be fine,” Dad said. “You’ve got this.”
“I hope there is zero traffic on the road,” Marcia rolled her eyes.“
It’s just to the school,” Josh said, adjusting the chair and the mirror.

The car started up fairly smoothly. Dad leaned forward to look up and down the road.

“Always check both ways,” he said. “It can be difficult with the double-sided parking.”
“Yeah,” Josh said, easing the car out onto Wood Street. “It feels tight.”
“Just take it nice and slow.”

Dad leaned back, allowing Josh a better view of the right hand mirror. His broad rough hands lay lax on his lap as Josh slowed to a stop at Mary.

“No one about,” Dad said as Josh went through the intersection. “Just relax,” he added, noting how Josh hunched as he clutched the wheel.
“Wood Street isn’t the problem,” Josh muttered as the car approached James Street.
“Keep going until we get to Bay,” Dad suggested. “We can do James Street another day.”

Bay Street still proved difficult. As Josh eased into the intersection near the school, the car shuddered to a stop.

“Remember to shift your gears,” Dad said. His voice rose a little. “Shift up and then – yes, just go. Go. Go.”

The light turned red.

“We’re going to die,” Christina said with deadpan drama in the back seat as traffic jolted to life. She peered out the window to her right. “Get it moving!”
“DAD!” Marcia’s voice rose.

Dad’s hand rose to the steering wheel, stabilizing the car drift as Josh managed to properly figure out the gear and jolt the car forward out of the oncoming traffic.

“My life flashed before my eyes,” Marcia said.
“It was boring?” asked Christina.
“Well, that was… certainly exciting,” Dad sighed, relaxing back into his seat as Josh finally turned into the school parking lot. “We clearly need to review shifting gears. It can be difficult, especially when you are driving around town. You know, the flow of traffic changes. You have to be always prepared to shift up or down.”
“Sorry, guys,” Josh’s blue eyes vaguely surveyed the parking lot before him.
“We’ll practice parking another day,” Dad hastily suggested. “Let’s get you to school. Mom said some of you have a few too many lates.”
“Not me!” Christina asserted.
“I don’t know who she is talking about,” Marcia batted her eyes.

Before he slid back into the driver’s seat, Dad stopped.

“Hey, Josh.”

His eldest son turned about. Joshua’s freckled face was still a little flushed. The boy pushed his thick glasses up more firmly on his nose.

“You did well,” Dad said. “Don’t worry about the gears. We’ll get to that soon, OK?”
“Yeah,” Josh nodded with a smile. “Thanks, Dad!”

Years later, Josh recalled his driver’s lessons with Dad. “He was soooo patient,” he said.

“Even when he was yelling at you?” I asked.
“He didn’t yell THAT often.”

-Listener-

“Well, that went really well. We got everything we wanted, plus some things on sale. A good day.” Dad said, climbing into the driver seat of Freddy, our red fourteen seater van. “A good day the Lord has made.”

He leaned back, grabbed a bag, smiled puckishly at me, and hauled out a small pack of pepperoni. My eyes lit up.

“Got’em for cheap! On sale! Don’t tell your mother!”
“Uh-huh,” I said, knowing that he told Mom pretty much almost everything.

I started on my first one, gazing contentedly up at the blue sky and puffy white clouds over the busy parking lot. We had beat the Saturday morning rush at Food Basics, thanks to my dad’s Shopping Routine. He had a set list Mom made for him, and he had gotten shopping down to a fine art, able to quickly gauge which cereal box was the heaviest for the cheapest price and which meat was the better bargain.

“What are you thinking of doing?” Dad asked.
“Me?”
“Thinking of going back to school?”
“I dunno,” I shrugged. “I’ve been thinking about it.”
“Your mom and I… we can tell… Maybe you should try again.”
“Last time…” I sighed. “It didn’t go so well.”

Three years ago, I had moved into with my grandparents to attend university, but my grandfather died during Frosh Week. Things went downhill from there.

“I didn’t fail any of my literature classes,” I mused. “I guess I could go back. I just… I don’t want last time to repeat.”
“It was hard.” Dad said heavily, helping himself to another pepperoni stick. “Bapa died…”

Bapa died. Those two words opened up a flood of memories of my grandfather. Something tightened in my throat, and my vision blurred. My dad reached over and placed his broad, rough hand on my shoulder. That was all it took.

“You carried it all this time inside, my big girl. You are just like your dad.”

I hadn’t cried at the hospital when they pulled the plug, or at the reception, or at the funeral. On a fall day in a parking lot with my dad, I mourned.

Extras

-Comforter-

The sky was was a glum grey-blue with thick clouds lowering overhead, promising more snow for the evening. Our red fourteen-seater van ground to a stop in the parking lot. Only two other cars sat in the empty lot.

“No one’s going to be around,” Dad said, turning off the van. “Not in this weather.”

Dad sighed and got out. Marcia stared out the window defiantly, her eyes pink around the edges. Another sibling sniffled. Trouping out of the van, we made our way through small snow banks past the small hills of Bayfront Park down to the promontory. I followed slowly behind the small group of mourners as my father bore our family cat in a bag down to the water’s edge.

The light was dim. The atmosphere sullen, suitable for a cat funeral. I watched as my dad and a few siblings scrabbled their way down over icy rocks to the water. Dad kicked at the ice repeatedly. Ice. I looked across the lake. It had been a bitter winter, and the Hamilton bay was now completely iced over.

The ground is frozen. The water is frozen. How’s a hard up family going to bury a family pet? There was some talking below. I watched with curiosity as Dad climbed up and walked past me back to the parking lot and the van, muttering about the ice. He returned with a hammer from the toolbox always stowed behind the back row of seats.

“This should do it,” he said.

I glanced around once more. No one else appeared in the park. Down by the water, Dad hammered at the ice with the claw of the hammer, breaking up a small hole.

Someone was saying a few words. Dad released the small bundle into the bay’s dark still waters. Young siblings scrambled back up and began to run about. Marcia followed slower, stubborn tears trailing down her cheeks. Dad drew her into a close sideways hug and cried.

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