With shiny black patent leather shoes and wearing a starched dress, I tiptoed between chicken poop from the car to the worn wooden steps. I was filled with excitement at the activities that stretched before me.
At the age of four, I was short. Not any shorter than other children my age, but short in comparison to my surroundings. When we visited with my great grandparents, it was always an adventure in the country at the farm especially from a young child’s perspective.
As I walked down the hallway, I could hear Daddy Cecil breathing heavily above the sound of the creaking boards beneath my shoes.The top of his balding head leaned against the arm of the couch. He was stretched out like so many times before with one arm behind his head.
Daddy Cecil was thin with a very wrinkled face. He was the most wrinkled person I had ever seen and yet, those deep craggy lines across his face intrigued me. Smelling of tobacco and musty armpit, he reached out and gave me a huge hug and kissed my cheek.
“I like my manly armpits,” he would always say as I scrunched my nose and told him that he stunk. Daddy Cecil would just laugh and his bright blue eyes would twinkle. His eyes were beautiful.
“Do you want a piece of Juicy Fruit?” he asked as he reached into the front pocket of his well worn plaid shirt. There was a never ending supply of Juicy Fruit gum in his front shirt pocket.
I never declined.
My little red painted fingernails carefully tore off the distinctive yellow wrapping and opened the silver foil liner. Then taking the powdery sugar coated gum, I tried to fit the whole piece in my mouth. It always felt like such a large piece! Crushing the paper, I would finally look back at him.
I didn’t recognize that look when I was four years old, but now I know it was love and amazement that flashed across his face. From the moment I walked up to the couch beside him until I left to explore the kitchen with my great grandmother, I was the focus of all his attention.
I loved him and I think he is the reason that I find blue eyes so attractive and mesmerizing.
A simple farmer.
A huge Gum Ball tree.
Then one day, all dressed up, my parents took me to a strange place. Everyone was dressed up and crying. Mom said, “Daddy Cecil died. He has gone to Heaven to live with Jesus.”
I was confused. I could see him laying in front of us with his hand at my eye level. He didn’t move. His face wasn’t smiling.
I reached up and touched his hand only to find it cold and unmoving.
I let go and kept my arms by my side and stared at the hand that once touch my bouncy curls and gave me Juicy Fruit gum with twinkling blue eyes.
I felt overwhelming sadness.
Jesus can’t take Daddy Cecil.
I don’t want him to be dead.
I want him back.
It has been more than forty years since that day.
I still miss him and think of him every time I see a pack of Juicy Fruit gum.