Wednesday, December 30, 2009

His Fingerprints

My dad died three and a half years ago and my grief has ebbed and flowed as the tide. As time passes the tide stays out more often, and I'm okay with that. Last night however it came in with flood force. I was moving in to my almost done dining room. I put dad's clock up on my new mantle. It doesn't work, hasn't worked since the day he died. I opened it up to try the keys once again and accidentally opened the book of memory as well. The morning he died I was sitting with him at his house. He was agitated. He kept glancing up at the clock; muttering. So I asked, knowing the response "Dad do you need me to wind the clock?" He seemed to look me over. Please, I thought, I'm 32 I'm capable, let me help you. No go. He struggled to his feet shuffled over with his cane and wound it up. He left for the doctors a few minutes later not knowing he'd never come home. His last words to me were jest. He drove to his death and I stood there laughing. It was part of him, to always leave me with a laugh.
Memories pages fell forward a few days and I saw my brother going through dad's coin collection. The funeral was over. My brother was jubilant to get the long desired collection. I saw his excitement turn to preoccupation over the days and I asked why. He answered "I always wanted to share this with dad in life, but he never let me."
I was back in 2009 staring at the clock, staring at dad's smeared fingerprints all over the glass of it, the fingerprints I could never bear to wipe off. And suddenly I was angry. Angry that he never shared his clocks with me. Angry that he never shared his coin collection with Mike. Angry that he was selfish and left me with a clock that didn't work, a clock wound too tight. In a spatula-throwing burst of anger I grabbed the Windex and sprayed his fingerprints. I wiped them clean. Then I cried and went to find my husband.
Dave and I stood and looked out at the falling snow. I told him what I loved best about snow was that it covered everything. The dirty, the ugly, everything was tucked under it, made lovely. The verse I'd been saying over and over to the kids this week came to mind "love covers a multitude of sins." I loved my dad. My anger and dad's selfishness were buried under a deep blanket of God's forgiveness. I felt the peace of it flutter down.
We went to bed only to be waken abruptly at 1 am by a horrendous crash. Dave ran down. I laid in the dark; chilled. Dave's scared voice "Annie. Annie you need to come here." I came trembling down the stairs. Dave was holding a clock in his hands. "Annie your dad is mad at you for wiping off his fingerprints. I found his clock on the floor." Think of any expression you've ever read to describe a terrified person and I'd pretty much fit the bill. I looked closer at the clock in Dave's hand. I looked up at the mantle. I replied, "Geez Dave that's not dad's clock, that's your grandpa's clock. What've you been doing to him?!"
Dave and I went to bed laughing. That was dad's gift to always leave me with a laugh. I guess I haven't wiped his fingerprints off after all.

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