From The Hot Girl – Part One
For the sixth time Deanna watched her father pull another card, from another vase of flowers, put it in a stack with others just like it, toss the flowers into a rolling trash can and dump the vase in the sink before he set it on a nurse’s cart.
“Daddy, why are you keeping the cards?”
Doc Collings turned toward her from the other side of what had been her Gramma Cora’s hospital bed. “So your mother can send them ‘thank you’ notes.”
“Mom hates cut flowers. What’s she going to say, ‘thanks so much for sending dying flowers to my dying mother’?” She didn’t see him wince.
“Flowers are okay at our house. Twice a year.”
“I know. Valentine’s and your anniversary. But you buy mom plants.”
“Sometimes what your mother says is okay, and what she really thinks is okay, are entirely different. She has tolerance for flowers on days where flowers are the norm. And tolerance for your brother or you giving her flowers or something fattening is different from her fully accepting it as okay across the board. Like with me. I don’t gamble with your mom. If I know where the strike zone is I don’t get fancy and try to throw curve balls.” He held his hand out perfectly flat. “I go straight down the middle. Plants in pots are in the strike zone every time.”
Doc Collings’ sports analogies always worked with his super jock son, but now he was in a situation where he always felt lost. Alone, with his daughter. Who, since she’d outgrown her Sting-Ray bike and Barbies lived on an intellectual diet of Romantic poetry, art books, Medieval versions of fables and fairy tales, and top forty radio. And until his mother-in-law’s failing health had sent her to live with them a couple of years ago, there hadn’t been anyone in their house who “got” the post grade school version of Deanna except their black lab, Hayden.
“DeeDee, your grandmother knew you cared.” He tossed another handful of flowers, spun a guest chair around and sat in front of her. “She had all the pictures you copied out of the art books for her. All of your notes and poems and Polaroids were taped to the wall. She was so sick the last week or so she didn’t open anything.”
“I looked for this card forever.” Deanna stared at the unopened envelope in her lap, a thumb and finger holding it on each side. “If she’d just opened it…Maybe…”
“There was no magic in that card that would have saved her.” He ran his hand through his hair, left it at the back of his head. “I know how it hurts when you lose someone you love. In ways you can’t explain to anyone. My parents are gone, my brother died in the war…If you live long enough you lose people…And unfortunately there’s nothing anyone can say or do to make it easier. I wish I could, but…” He reached out, put his hand on top of hers, took the card and gave it a long look before he handed it back. “Deanna, when things like this happen? The old saying about how ‘it’s the thought that counts’ is true. She knew how you felt, card or no card. Believe me.”
She searched his face, registered the hurt and confusion. “It’s okay, Daddy. She told me before. About her heart and everything.” She glanced around at the stripped bed, dying flowers, empty vases and back to her lost father. “And how if I gave myself time I’d realize the heart that doctors understand isn’t the most important one I have.”
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