I look at you and see an ancient old man, slumped over in your wheelchair, fast asleep. A slim shiny line of drool slides down your placid lip onto your warm flannel shirt. Where did you get the red flannel? You’ve never worn red. You’ve always been a pastel linen, button down collar kind of guy.

You’re so far away. When your eyes are open, you look past me as if I’m a stranger. Where’s the father who sat Indian style on the floor of my bedroom with a tiny china cup in your big calloused hand? You smiled as I poured you another cup from my miniature teapot. You sat and listened to my little girl chatter. We sipped our “real coffee”, laced heavily with milk and sugar, an acceptable brew for one so young. I don’t remember any of the conversations around the upside down box which served as our table. I only know they made me feel loved.

We had many adventures. I was four when we went “hunting for the gopher”. I had no concept of hunting, I only knew the gopher was a tiny little furry creature I wanted to keep as my pet. I prattled nonstop while you fed the garden hose down one of its holes. I can still see the hole with all of its crumbed brown dirt disappearing into blackness. Was this how the rabbit hole looked before Alice fell down into it’s mysterious depths?

We perched over the exit hole of the gopher’s domain waiting patiently for him to come out of his flooded home. I chatted about the fun times my new pet and I would have. You looked up at me and held your finger to your lips and said, “shhh. We won’t get him if he hears you.”

All of a sudden I sat up shocked. Out popped a little head. Hurray, my new friend was here! I didn’t see the little shovel you had picked up in your hand. Whack! Off went his head.

I rocked back in disbelief, not noticing until later the little droplets of blood sprayed across my face. What had my hero Daddy done? My new friend is headless! I jumped up sobbing in search of the comforting arms of Mommy.

I heard you later telling Mommy that you didn’t know it would upset me. You had told me we were hunting. Hunting always means killing when it’s a little pest who tears up the yard. I forgave you so long ago. A lesson learned for both of us.

It seems like yesterday that you took me to ride a real live elephant in the grocery store parking lot. You held me close to your chest when we sat miles from the ground on top of the smelly beast, its ears flapping as it moved the cloying gamey aroma around us in waves. The lumbering giant moved slowly across the hot black tarmac of the parking lot. You held me as close as another layer of skin when I cried, “don’t let me fall, Daddy!”

I matured into a woman who cherished our daily walks. I needed your wisdom and keen sense of humor which had the uncanny ability to put my life in perspective. Time has passed quickly on our mystery walk called life. I feel you have left me, imprisoned in your shell of an ancient body. Your mind has gone ahead to an unknown land. The Dad who loved his little girl should be free again…a soul emancipated from the confines of a dilapidated body which refuses to give up.

Someday soon, the call will come that you have passed. I shall smile through my tears. You’re finally free. We will be together again, beyond the veil, when my mystery walk is completed. We will enjoy our coffee and talk of old times and smelly elephants.

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