This word I like... We architect our life...
A song, a sigh... developing words that linger...
Through fields of green, through open eyes... It's for us to see.
Interanimate: To animate or inspire mutually

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Dais - Part 3 of 7

Dedicated to William Henry Anderson 1920-2012
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Hunk continued, "When I hadn't heard from Billy for a few months, I had a friend write to Billy's brother Henry. Billy used to talk about his older brother in Kansas. Henry's wife Marguerite wrote back and enclosed a letter Billy had written to me before the accident. Henry said he had just found the letter in your Dad's belongings. He said he read the letter and thought it would be a good idea if I could come here for a spell. Your dad was not coping well with your mom's passing before his accident."
"So I would consider it an honor if I could just work here with you, Henry and Marguerite for a while. Your Mom and Dad were the closest family I've had since leaving home as a kid. Henry said I could help out during the summer. I can find work in town in the winter."

Dorothy could remember Hunk smelling like Uncle Henry's friend from town, Lyman Baum. She remembered that name cuz it sounded funny, like a skin cream. Uncle told her that Lyman smelled bad sometimes cuz he drank too much whiskey. Dorothy wondered why anyone would want to drink something that made them smell worse than they already did a day after tending barn. Not that she knew what Mr. Baum did during the day. But hunk smelled bad most days as it was. Autie Em always told her that, "If you don't like the way someone smells its because you aren't working hard enough yourself". Dorothy was always trying to help out beyond her usual chores. But she found out there was no hiding the whiskey smell. At least, not for her. She felt bad for Hunk as he kept speaking about her Dad.

Dorothy drifted back to reality. This dream Dad, Dorothy thought, was not clear. Billy. Daddy. She studied her red shoes for an answer. Sometimes she thought all of life's answers could be found in her shoes. All they had to do was move her someplace besides where she was standing and she felt happier. Toto was still here on the dais. This Hunk was a good man and knew her father. That was the important thing. She liked the idea of having a mother and father even if it was only in a dream. Being able to remember her activities back only three days was starting to scare her. In other memories Hunk told Dorothy stories about her Father as a young man. They took up clogging, dancing in wooden shoes on the banks of the St. Johns; acting out skits and plays with their friends after a hard days work. Both were unmarried, unkempt and crazy for adventure. Without warning, clarity arrived. The memory flooded her mind quickly.

She was with her Daddy, helping him ploughing the fields some hot May day. She was a lot younger, maybe around 10 years old. Pike was only 7, sandy blond hair and olive skin, still holding onto Dorothy's dress for security. Mommy Em was not well. She was sleeping on the second floor outside patio of their house not far away. She needed fresh air all the time. That afternoon, Daddy Dee had told Dorothy and Pike to play by the well and watch him while he finished ploughing the last corn field closest to the house. He had started ploughing this field the day before. Dorothy and Pike played with the water from the well during that hot afternoon. They tried to catch dragonflies gently by their tails, looking into their colorful eyes before letting them fly off. She and Pike talked about how high the corn was going to grow by August and how they'd run in between the rows before Daddy made dinner. Finally, Daddy was ploughing near the well and it seemed that he was nearly done. As he got closer Dorothy saw how very tired he was. Daddy had almost ploughed a perfect row of furrows. The ground was dry and hard from lack of rain. He had only a few more rows left but was dripping sweat and breathing heavily. Daddy was close to Dorothy and Pike when he stopped and looked back at the house. He saw that the green scarf was not hanging over the outside window. Recently they started keeping one end of Mommy's long green scarf draped outside the window, the other end next to Mommy's bed. When Em was having trouble breathing she would pull the scarf onto her bed to let her Billy know that she needed help.

Dorothy remembered making that scarf for mother as a Christmas present years before. She didn't know how to knit so Em taught her and helped her make it. She designed the scarf with a forest green background with two colorful flowing ribbon shapes meandering lengthwise between each end. One band was a sun-colored gold. The other was a deep red. Both bands started on one end of the scarf almost touching at the point. But they took their own unpredictable path through the green, and widened towards the other end where they once again narrowed to points that did not touch. Each band had it's own story to tell, but they both came from and ended at the same place. Mommy Em used to wear the scarf all the time. She said she loved it and was happiest when she wore it, especially when her Dee-Dee and Pee-Pee were near. She often called Pike Pee-Pee and they all would always laugh until Pike came to understand the hidden meaning. Then he didn't like it so much. Later, when Em started feel poor health, she let everyone know that whenever she was wearing Dee's scarf on her head and neck, she was in perfect health and extremely happy.

Years had gone by and Em wasn't wearing her scarf around her neck very much any more. she was using it to drape across her chest at night for warmth, and to signal father in the fields during the day. Em needed to always breathe fresh air so they all moved to the upstairs which had large windows and a strong breeze from the west. It was open to the weather. In the winter Daddy, Pike and she would heat rocks downstairs in the fire. When the rocks were nice and hot, they would tong them into thick wool socks and place them around edges of our beds. This kept them warm through most nights while the healthy breeze blew silently through the rooms.

Dorothy missed her Em, so badly she wanted to cry all the time. Lost and terrified in thought, Dorothy was startled by a loud voice. It broke through one memory bringing her back into another.

Daddy shouted that he was going back to the house to check on Em. Mommy had been coughing a lot that day. As Dorothy watched him disappear into the house, she felt an overwhelming urge to help. She made up her mind. With Pike in tow, she walked the short distance over to the plough and took the reigns and plough handle firmly in her hands. She told Pike to hang on, and she did what she saw Daddy doing; she shook the straps and yelled at Ozzy, their farm horse. "Yaaaaa", she shouted. Ozzy turned and glanced back at her quizzically. Then he did something unexpected. He started walking briskly towards the barn, and at a much faster pace than when Daddy was usually behind him. The only problem was that the barn was diagonally across the field and at the other end. Dorothy hung tight and Pike followed, being pulled quickly behind Ozzy as they opened up a new wide furrow towards the barn. She had no control. All she could do was stand on the plough and hold on. Pike ran along behind. Ozzy must have had a picture of soft fresh hay waiting for him at his destination. When they got close to the barn Daddy showed up; running, waving his arms, and yelling at Ozzy to stop. Ozzy stopped, but it was too late. The three of them looked back over the perfectly ploughed field to see one lone furrow cutting across the others. Pike was crying. He was looking at the scene through two parted fingers on his right hand, which otherwise covered his entire face. Dorothy was crying, saying she was sorry, and that she just wanted to help. She knew it would take Daddy hours with a shovel to reshape the damaged furrows. Daddy turned around and knelt in the end of the fresh furrow to face her and Pike. His back to the field, he put one arm around Dorothy and another around Pike. He studied their faces closely for a moment and drew a big smile.

He said, "It's going to be just fine. No need to cry. I know you did this to help. Do you know that you two have just started a conversation with God? You didn't just think about helping, you took action. People often pray for God to help others, but few take action themselves. I pray for you and your mother all the time. But I feel helpless to do anything that will make Mommy well again. You two acted to help me and I think God hears and sees your actions loud and clear."

Sobbing himself now, Daddy wiped his own tears and then ones from Dorothy and Pike. He said softly, "Remember, what lies in your hearts can only truly be seen by God through the work of your hands. Without a doubt, your actions to help others is the language God understands above all other. And he will speak to you back in the same language in due time."

Daddy brushed his hair back with his hand, put his hat back on, and stood.

Dorothy missed Daddy Dee and Pee-Pee very much. She missed her father's voice, his tender ways, the twinkle in his eyes. She wondered what happened to them. The last thought left her exhausted and confused. Everything became dark.

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