By Michelle Railey
It’s May 13th. There is not a single May 13th that I have never thought of you.
Thank you for asking about my dinosaurs and pretending that you’d never heard of my friends Stegosaur, Brachiosaurus, Trilobite, and Pterodactyl.Thank you for driving me in that yellow Nova and for always smelling like calmness and Aqua Velva, with a hint of Old Spice.
When I sang my first solo ever, you said how my necklace sparkled. (It did. Indeed.)
When I triumphantly showed you my First Rating blue ribbon medal, you asked if I would build a case for the rest.
When I was three, you sat on the kitchen floor like you were my size. When I was five, you hoisted me on your back. You said “good gravy, Davy” at the weight and said I was a bag of potatoes. And you carried me up the stairs. When I was nine, you colored a coloring-book-dachsund with the bittersweet Crayola crayon and you said there was no other color a dachsund could be (And that’s still true. All dachshunds are, in fact, bittersweet). When I was ten, you looked at my acrylic heart earrings and you said you liked them, because the bottom heart was “what do you call that? Ice blue?” Yes, ice blue.) And when I was eleven, you tried to tell me about solar powered cars and electric engines and the car in the magazine was red and you were, well, you were sick. And I tried so very hard to ask something smart and to care about cars.
You used Chapstick every night after dinner. Original, the black wrapper. Your sport coats had leather buttons. Your garage, with its old brooms and its grandfather smells; its nails in old coffee cans and that weird orange-colored epoxy stain on the floor, was one of my favorite places in all the world. Next to your (and Mamaw’s) pantry: paint-stained nineteen-thirties chair and saltines tin and warmth and closeness and safety and wisdom and calm.
I will live my entire life trying to re-find that and you.
You were very fond of that sea turtle coloring contest I completed: you seemed proud when I won and it was displayed at the municipal pool. You are still the only person I ever knew who could create sailboats from Solo party cups. You’re so much like my mom, still, it hurts.
And there has never been a May 13th that I don’t think of you and wish you Happy Birthday.
You liked Anne Murray and Abba. There was a framed photograph, signed or at least stamped, from President Ronald Reagan on your desk. And there are, at least, five radio patents that are registered in your name.
I wish I had known you better.
I never built that case for my medals. But I do still like dinosaurs. But not as much as I like you. I wish you were here. Happy Birthday.
The “not even a grain of sand” quote is from memory so may not be 100 percent accurate but should be attributed to Coco Chanel. I believe it comes from Axel Madsen’s biography of Coco Chanel, Chanel: A Woman of Her Own.
Originally written 13 May 2015.