A Chocolate Atom

I’ve been on the road a whole bunch this last month. 1st, I went to visit Jasper in Denver. He is entrenched in his Masters of Education. We went dancing. We spent a couple of nights in Boulder visiting my good friend from Physical Therapy school. I also went to class with him, went out to dinner with his cohort, and spent one night on a couch in his ticky tacky Weeds look-alike house. I also got to observe a period of Algebra II, where he was teaching the lesson. When he got up in front of those kids, set his posture, and then set his voice….I almost cried. He sounded so much like his dad. I used to be able to tell when Jim was dreaming about teaching and talking in his sleep. He had a “teacher voice” that was unlike anything he used with friends and family. Jasper has inherited it. I did not cry in front of those kids. I asked for a worksheet and then realized how very little I remember of Algebra II. It was humbling.

A week later, I jumped on a plane to Atlanta to spend a week with my dad. At age 83, he was in the thick of a house re-model, and I decided to go and help him paint and lay floor. We sent his wife away for the week, we worked long hours, we ate well, and took care of the pets. We talked. Greg asked why I would do this on my dime and my time. I did this because I wanted to. Partially, I love a good project, but mostly, I love my dad. Top of my mind before, during, and after, is just how lucky I am to still have him.

With Jim gone now for almost 7 years, the edges of my grief are not as sharp. The one thing that continues to stab me hard, is the realization that my children are growing up without their dad. There is nothing I can do about that. I can be their mom, but that is all I can be. Jasper wrote the following last weekend when he was feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. Jim still talks to him. For that, I am ever grateful.

Dear J-Man,

Tell me, child, what atoms you’re made of.

(I taught you matter, remember?
I broke a chocolate bar in two,
Gave you one,
Broke the other one in two,
Gave you one,
Broke the other one in two.
I said, can I keep going forever?
You said, no ’cause you’ll die first.
You were five.
You didn’t understand why I laughed.
I said, will I have any chocolate left when I go?
You said, not very much.
You said, here have some of mine.
I said, no need, child.
I said, chocolate can’t break forever.
Eventually you get a piece
That refuses to break.
I said, that’s called an atom.
You said, a chocolate atom?
I said, a chocolate atom.

(And the maddest you’ve ever been
Was the day, years later, you learned
There was no such thing as a chocolate atom.
I said, you bet there is.
You said, chocolate’s not an element.
I said, but it’s elemental.))

You said, at the service,
He’s eating chocolate somewhere.
You were right.
I watched you break, child,
And I broke you off a piece,
Saving it for when you get here,
Hoping it’d go stale.
It nearly didn’t.

You went to college, though.
I beamed so proud
You swore you could feel it.
But I watched you break again.
Four and half floors up a cold stairwell,
The only company you could cry to.
I broke you off a piece,
Saving it for when you get here,
Hoping it’d go stale.
It nearly didn’t.

You fell in love.
Couldn’t stop smiling when she was around,
Couldn’t smile unless she was around.
I knew how the story would end, child.
I wrote the book.
I watched you break.
Broke you off a piece,
Saving it for when you get here,
Hoping it’d go stale.
It nearly didn’t.

Still you turn the volume up,
Laugh louder, cry louder,
Dance louder, dream louder,
Love louder, fail louder.
Increase the amplitude, child,
And the wine glass shatters.
I’m watching you break
over, and over, and over.
Give a piece of you away,
Break the other one in two,
Give a piece of you away,
Break the other one in two.
Every time, I break you off a piece,
Saving it for when you get here,
Hoping it’ll go stale.
Please, let it go stale.

I say, can you keep going forever?
You say, no ’cause I’ll die first.
I say, chocolate can’t break forever.
Eventually you get a piece
That refuses to break.

Love forever,

Daddy Doh Doh

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