Episode 83. The Fist and the Thistle Flower
Delilah held the half-finished final diary of Big Bertha, her late mother, open on her lap, pen poised. Her grief was still so sharp, she hesitated for fear of drawing blood from the page as the nib bit the paper. But because it was within her power to transform a loss into a gain, to continue her mother's observations as a way of turning them into a family tradition, she persevered.
"We will overcome," she wrote. She wrote slowly, watching the ink transfer to the paper as if drop by drop she were changing the nature of reality.
"That may sound trite, but I believe it is so.
"My mother is gone and I feared that my father would try to go with her. We took her ashes, in her boat, out beyond Betty's Island, out till we had sunk the land and there was nothing but water in every direction. I steered. I stood where she had stood and held the wheel as she had held it. My state of mind was such, I might have kept on going till we reached the horizon, which would have been never, but Daddy Mac called a halt.
"He stepped up on the transom with the urn in his hand. Yes the transom is broad and flat and he is nimble yet but there were waves. The boat moved up and down and back and forth and I was sure he would fall overboard and that he meant to do it, with all that was left of my mama clutched to his chest.
"I said, 'Daddy, what are you doing? Get down from there!"
"'No,' he said. "I've got to be up in the pulpit, so to speak, to say goodbye. Otherwise I will never manage it.'
"As he would not be persuaded otherwise, Noah and me and Minnie sat down in deck chairs before him, me and Minnie in our big floppy sun hats and sunglasses and with yellow roses pinned to our formal dresses, and Noah with Sir Barksalot in his lap. The dog had already eaten Noah's rose.
"'I don't have much to say,' said Daddy Mac. "Our hearts are all beating hard with the power of the love she shared with us, so about Bertie herself I will leave you to your own memories. But it occurred to me that I myself have been selfish. I have been like a fist, all closed up and hard with my hurting. And while I was a'contemplatin' of that, Bertie spoke in my mind, I swear I heard the words in her own voice, and what she said was I should open up the fist and let it turn into a flower. She called me Little Darlin', the way she always did, and said to open up and flower. So I don't mind you seeing my tears here, for they are tears of love, and they are like the petals on these roses we have on. So I am opening up and flowering, my dear Bertie, and now here you go, the way you said you wanted it to be. I cast your ashes on the deep, knowing your spirit will always be with us.'
"As he spoke he uncapped the urn and gave a big heave. At that moment a gust sprang up out of what till then had been a total calm, and instead of spilling into the ocean the ashes came swirling back on Daddy Mac in a cloud which then enveloped the rest of us.
"It might have been awful, and it might have been worse, for then in addition to us being covered in Mama's powdery remains, the boat lurched in the swell and Daddy Mac teetered this way and that and looked for sure like he was going overboard. Instead it was the urn that went overboard with a splash while Daddy Mac tumbled back into the boat.
"I will never forget his eyes opening up stark blue in that grey face and instead of curses a laugh coming out of his mouth. For he was laughing and he couldn't stop. And it caught on with me and Minnie too and then with Noah. Even Sir Barksalot started to howl as if he were trying to laugh.
"We must have laughed for half an hour, till we were all weak as kittens. Then Daddy said, where he lay sprawled on the deck, 'Well, she didn't say what kind of flower. With her passion for practical jokes, I daresay it were a thistle. Mighty pretty, but you might prick yourself on it.'
"And with that we were off to the races again.
"I love my silly little daddy. And now I think he'll be all right. I think we'll all be all right, no matter how adrift we may be on any given day."
With that she closed the little leatherbound book and went to sleep with it clutched to the bosom of the flower-embroidered cotton nightgown her mother had made for her and with the tears drying fast on her face.
31 August 2018
Prospect, Nova Scotia
Keywords:close-up, evanescent, flower, sharp, spiny, thistle, thorny