I sat in the lawn chair while my brother turned the chicken on the grill. The scent of charcoal floated toward me and my mouth started watering. I looked out towards the pasture behind the house. The neighbors used to have cows roam the fields. They terrified me as a little girl. One time, a cow ended up in our back yard and my mom fearlessly herded her back to the neighbor’s house. My Dad stayed in the house with me. He claimed that he was trying to keep me calm, but I don’t think he liked the cows much either. Beyond the pasture, trees stretched upward upon the mountain that towered over the home of my childhood.
Thump, thump. I turned to see pears falling from the two trees at the side of the house. The branches were raised in defiance, having unloaded the weighty fruit and daring us to come get them.
“Do you want to take some with you?”
My brother half-smiled, but his eyes were sad. I thought about what I’d do with a couple bushels of pears. I’d never canned before, but my boyfriend had threatened to teach me. Maybe the pears would be a good place to start.
We grabbed some garbage bags and filled them with pears from the ground. My eyes were wet as I thought about dad gathering them each year, washing and then preserving them. He’d loved his fruit trees. Around us, pears kept falling, raindrops soaking the ground. One of them beaned my brother’s bald head with a smack. The look on his face, of surprise and slight pain, made me laugh. Leave it to dad.
As I drove home, I realized that it had been seven months since I’d heard Dad’s laughter, since I felt his arms around me in a big, bear hug and listened to his thoughtful advice. He always knew what to say. I think he spent hours worrying about his kids and his grandkids, trying to figure out how to help. I missed him so much.
His birthday was coming up in another week and I wondered how to spend the day. Each year, I’d take Dad to his favorite restaurant, Donoli’s, where he’d order a steak and pasta e fagioli. He loved going out to eat. For him, eating a good meal with his family made him happy.
It occurred to me that canning the pears was the perfect commemoration of my Dad. He’d grown the trees in his yard for the past several years, nurturing and caring for them so they could grow healthy and strong. Now that they’re fully grown, they’ll continue without him, growing, bearing fruit and turning their branches to the sun while hoping to drop a fruit on someone’s head. Hopefully, my brother’s.