The chilling fog at my back, I pedal through a cherished
neighborhood in Carmel Valley. My cheeks are warm from the sun
and stretched widely by a gnat-catching grin. Gardens are
burgeoning with lilies and roses. Privet and star jasmine spice
the air - and my mind with memories of biking (albeit, with
playing cards attached by clothes pins to my spokes) in the
Central Valley where I grew up.
Happy as a
clam, I pass lettuce patches and rows of carrots that roll to
the forested hillsides above. A field of yellow mustard crops up
and I begin to hear the strains of “Red, red wine . . .”
As I pull
into the parking lot at Baja Cantina, a landmark for locals and
tourists for decades, I am sure they must be playing a CD for
all the Father’s Day revelers lunching and swilling beer on
their deck. Bike parked, I peer through the crowd and am
astonished. Two guys are actually singing and the lead
Caucasian, packing a harmonica and tambourine, has his Haitian
accent so down that I swear he’s singing it better than the
He works the
crowd, “Hey, are you at that table newlyweds?”
They are and
there are big congrats.
says, “I’m going to sing a little something for those of you who
have lost your dads or someone and miss them.”
young man, wearing a loose leather jacket and tousled golden
brown hair, reminds me of several young loves of my youth and I
am stabbed with longing for the happy hoopla my family, and my
latest boyfriend and I, would create at any number of
The song is
wistful and as I gaze at the smoky hills beyond the farmlands my
eyes start to prick with tears. I’m really missing my dad. He’d
have loved being here. A devotee of Bob Dylan (whom he called
Die-lan) he’d have “vibed” with the performers whom I learn are
just half of The Money Band. He’d have loved the name they chose
and their repertoire from Pink Floyd to the Beatles.
song ends I walk down a ramp behind the performers, peer through
the bushes at their backs, and say, “I miss my dad, thank you.”
grab my hand and squeeze it compassionately.
“Hey, we all
miss someone,” the tambourine man says. “Thanks for dropping
As I wheel
away I begin to thank my dad for what he gave me aside from a
lot of grief (it was mutual). He passed along his passion, his
rebellion (at his request, we played “The Boxer” at his funeral)
and the love of nature.
And as I say
these words to the sky, “Thank you Glenn Cantrell,” I envision
the words. And that’s when the dam bursts. I honestly have
forgotten whether his name is spelled with one or two “n” s.
my Mental Pause ® column, I’d make a big joke about this. But
there is nothing funny this time. I remember talking recently to
a friend who is also 50-something plus and her saying she is
truly worried that she can’t remember things – especially
because her mother has Alzheimer’s.
I have been
having short term memory loss, such as putting out a bottle of
pills and not knowing whether I’ve just taken one. But this is
long term memory and I have to know how to spell my father’s
name. Good God, it’s his day.
It comes to
me that I have a CD of Glen Campbell’s in my car – one that he
autographed and sent to me after I interviewed him – and I KNOW
their names are spelled differently. Glen and I had joked about
In angst, I
wheel back to my car. By the time I get there, I am 90 percent
sure dad’s is spelled with two “n”s. I am greatly relieved when
I pull out the CD and see “Glen” Campbell.
satisfied, I continue my bike ride past buckeye trees (dad’s
favorites), Doris Day’s compound (mom’s favorite singer and I
won’t say where her house/animal retreat is) and past a little
lake. Lying on the verdant grass is the duck lady, widely known
in the area. Long hair flowing, with her signature,
floppy-brimmed hat shading her face, I can see that she had
brought her duck to swim with others in the pond. You see, when
she’s not on her houseboat harbored in Monterey Bay, she’s
biking around town with a carrier strapped to the back and a
Oh how dad
would have loved this day, its smells and sights. And he’d have
made fast friends with the duck lady.
As I sit
beneath a tree that droops its green fingers into the pond, I
can feel my father hugging me: the youthful and burly father and
my face resting on his starched white shirt; the old father
reduced to suspenders, grinning, encircling my shoulders and
saying, “I’m suh gla-a-ad tuh see yuh” (a consummate grammarian
who loved to affect a Southern drawl); the educated father who
worked his way through medical school; the farmer who raised the
most perfect cymbidium orchids and tastiest cherry tomatoes on
God’s green earth.
been almost 15 years since he left this world, but I feel his
presence more keenly today than any other Father’s Day. It’s
even more peculiar when I consider that dad hated the event, the
presents and the fuss.
be down in his arbor, barbecuing steaks and talking to his
orchids . . .