The Magic Glass


Before I left Arizona last week, I saw my Great-Aunt one last time to say, “Good-By.”  I picked her up from my relative’s house where she lived and slept.  She had combed her short blonde hair pretty and straight, scrubbing her face shiny to glow in the sun.  “Are you ready, Aunt Shirley?”  “Oh, heaven’s yes,” she answered,  her sparkling blue eyes twinkling.

As we drove to one of her favorite restaurants in town, we passed familiar cactus in the wide open desert together with several stray dogs roaming on the street.  Aunt Shirley’s frail hands were folded in her lap.  She fidgeted, knowing it was our last visit, for this trip at least.  When would I be coming back?  That’s what she was thinking, as I read her silent senior mind. My visits were one of the things that she most looked forward to.

It’s hard for me to leave, harder still for her to see me go.  At 88 years old, she gets lonely. She is loved where she lives it is true, but for her, it is nearly the same every day.  She can no longer see well enough to read her dear books or to be independent. She is unable to drive her fanciful convertible car, or even to simply walk her beloved dog, Bunky.  Yet she is not one to ever complain.  She’s lived a good life.  She lives it still.

We stopped at a restaurant she most frequents named, J.B’s.  It has a Senior menu that offers a little of everything.  Aunt Shirley is very frail, and as usual, wasn’t very hungry.  I mulled over the menu for a minute.  Ordering for her is a challenge as I am forever trying to fatten her up.  A nice waitress came by with a smile on her face and a pony tail in her hair with a big blue bow.  She brought us water and coffee with cream.  “Ahhhh!” There on the menu was the perfect picture of an item for someone not hungry, yet one that needed calories.  A malted milkshake!  “We’ll share it, please,” I said to the nice girl, the one with the big blue bow in her hair.  “I’d like it extra thick, made with hot fudge and malted milk powder if you have it.”  She smiled at me, glancing at Aunt Shirley while writing on her green tablet with a red colored pen.

Soon the waitress came back with a tall clear fountain glass. It spilled over the brim, dripping with scoops of chocolate ice cream, cocoa-colored milk, and thick hot fudge.  She brought an extra matching glass, two striped straws wrapped in cream paper, and extra long silver spoons that made clinking sounds against the glasses.  I started to pour half of the drink into Aunt Shirley’s tall glass before beginning to laugh.  One clear glass was nearly full with the delicious confection while the other was still rising to the top!  How could it be?

I examined my fountain glass like a science experiment, stirring it up with one of the extra long spoons.  Was I missing something?  Was it a bottomless glass?  I peered at my Aunt to see her expression.  She pondered me, her eyes wide with wonder, her pink lips parting in a smile as she scooted up to look deep into the vessel.  We laughed. Was this a joke or something?  Then we gave up.  We drank our milkshakes, held hands, lived and loved.  It was the perfect ending to our perfect visit.

It was The Magic Glass.

The Gift of My Father


If I could give all I knew one present for Christmas it would be an itty-bitty piece of my father.  I suppose many daughters think this about their own.  The lucky ones.  Mine is like no other man I’ve ever met or known before.

My grandmother waited 36 years before delivering her, “only begotten son” on a snowy Christmas dusk.  It was near the bay of Michigan during the year of 1932.  Five older sisters awaited his arrival, while an older angelic brother looked down from Heaven above. A younger sister of blonde and a baby brother lost were born during years shortly afterward.  My father was always the only brother, his parent’s only son.

A humble man who has the kindest soul, my father is always loyal and true.  He’s taught me subtle, wise lessons in life.  As a young girl, I watched his gentle mannerisms while listening to his quiet words, soaking up hushed teachings like a dry sponge dropped in a Michigan millpond.  One of my father’s most repeated  lessons was, “”Treat others the way you want to be treated.”  Akin to the Bible, I guess.  It has stayed with me forever and always. Shortly after my own two boys learned their first few words, I passed it down to them together with tender hugs and kisses.   They are having their own little ones, now.  If the cycle continues it will be a lesson for their children as well.  It is the most important one of all.

Of course there were other teachings to be learned.  Important mental notes written in imaginary pencil from my father for me to follow.  Like, “How to live life with a positive attitude in spite of adversity,” or “To smile when your heart hurts,” and, “It’s okay to cry.”

Once, when one of my sons was very young and very ill,  I called my father in Arizona all the way from St. Louis.  Choking back tears I remember saying, “Dad, I don’t think I’m going to have him very long.”  He paused for a few seconds before finding the right words.  I don’t remember exactly what they were, but together with his quiet tone, my father calmed me down.  I hold that single moment deep down inside of me.  Today, it is here within the whole of my chest…near the inside of my heart where it will stay for all eternity.

My father has taught me lessons my whole life through.  We are both older now.  It seems he is my guide and advisor only if I ask him to be.  We value our time together more than ever before.  Like children on a playground who have been friends all of their lives or even before, we laugh and play.  Sometimes we swing on a rubber tire hanging from an old frayed, cream-colored rope.  Like babes again, feeling our heads dangling in the wind! Other days we walk slowly along a new path, discovering speckled rocks to help us find our way.

Last night, me and my father sat in a puffy, padded booth on a western patio. Surrounding us was the warmth of a golden desert sun setting deep into cocoa sand of a saguaro cactus land.  We talked for hours about nothing, telling stories while sharing jokes.  I sipped red wine from a glass of clear.  He drank more.  Older teeth opened wide revealing burgundy red.  I giggled, he laughed.  A head of thick hair…now grey, tossed back…like always…

“That’s my father,” I whispered aloud,  to no one except coyotes hidden in the distance of the desert there.

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Exhibit

Merry Christmas…