Dandelions in Bloom
The first few weeks of May have been colder than usual. Frigid North-West winds sweeping up off the ocean surface salt and chill the earth, postponing springtime flora. Summer will come regardless, but sometimes it's hard to swallow winter encroaching on tempus vernum.
Jim crosses his arms against the cold and stumbles through his porch door into a home he can hardly bear to enter. Voices of a happy family still echo off the walls; ghosts of another life who haunt relentlessly. Memories, their rattling chains. It wasn't that Jim was bothered by cold and wind. He grew up accustomed to many cold and windy days on the southern coast of Nova Scotia. What bothered Jim about the delayed spring blossoming was not the cold itself, but the cold as a reminder of a cruel winter two years previous that ended his happiness and destroyed his life. It was a cold winter storm that sunk his son's fishing vessel, ending five young lives, and resonating to break many more.
Jim stoked the few remaining embers in the fireplace, spreading them out evenly before laying triangular and semicircular chops of wood down together in the stove like a reductive and unsatisfying game of Tetris rewired to suit a young child. Chris was good at Tetris, thought Jim, He was good at a lot of things. Was...
Jim remained kneeled in front of the fireplace watching the greyish white smoke fill the chamber and then clear away to reveal yellow flames licking up the walls of his solid brick wall of firewood. This will burn for a while if I keep the draft down. I have to be careful not to let it go out completely. It's easy to keep a fire going, even when the barest of embers remain, but starting anew over a cold pile of ash is always a pesky chore.
Alas, Jim often let the fire go out. Grief still held an iron grip on his heart and he found it difficult to keep up with chores around the house. A thin layer of dust lay over pretty much everything in the house. Much of which from the fireplace, but some of it was microscopic bits of dead skin from people who had once lived there, or those who just came for a visit and passed on. The oppressive veil of death was of course nothing new to this house.
The next week had meant a dramatic change in the weather. After a day of torrential rain, the temperature had begun to rise steadily day by day. The rain had washed away all remaining traction salt and gravel flecked snowbanks and the lawns had started to green immediately.
A week later and each lawn was speckled with yellow spots; some were covered. As if overnight, millions of dandelions had shot up out of the ground and taken bloom. Jim, however, did not take notice of this on his way to the cemetery. Dandelions had once represented a special pastime between him and his son. Among other woodsman survival tips, Jim had taught Chris all of the ways you can eat each part of a dandelion. Not just the leaves, but also the white carrot-like root and the yellow blossom. Of course, as most parents do, Jim also taught Chris how to make a wish with a seeded dandelion. "You see here, like this one," said Jim to his toddler son, plucking a seeded dandelion from the ground. "When a breeze picks up, blow on the white puff and make a wish as they scatter into the air."
It wasn't until he had reached his son's grave that Jim noticed the brilliant yellow blossoms all around him. A brief memory of happy times fluttered by and Jim took to his grief once more. It was never easy. It would have been bad enough to have to have buried his son, but what was even worse was not being able to. Chris was lost at sea; his grave merely symbolic. Jim doubled over in grief over the tragedy and found himself sinking into every gruesome detail. He took a moment to wipe his tears and his eyes rested on a seeded dandelion standing next to the base of Chris' grave.
A sudden gust of wind knocked the perfect globe of fuzzy white against the cold grey stone and the seeds rose up in the updraft and blew away in all directions. Jim could almost believe Chris had tried to make a wish, a wish to comfort his grieving father. maybe he was not really so lost after all.
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