Two weeks after Dad's death, I was nearly out of coffee. No one wants me to run out of coffee. I buy ten pounds at a time from a roaster nestled next to I-5 on the hill above Glenwood. My father was fascinated, I would say obsessed, by the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake. The Big One didn’t happen in his lifetime, but on the way to the roaster the tectonics of seasonal change were in full swing as spring shouldered over the immovable mass of winter. The ghost of a half moon floated in the southeast, washed pale by an afternoon tsunami of warm sunshine flowing across the wide blue-eyed sky. Small lemon-lime chandeliers of big-leaf maple flowers swung in a gentling breeze. Coffee in hand, I drove off the hill into Glenwood, the car inundated with the aroma of freshly roasted beans.
There was one more errand on the way to Mom’s place, no longer Mom and Dad’s place except in spirit. The pleasant young woman at the funeral home knew me. Apparently, I had been to high school with her aunt and uncle. She told me her aunt had stalked me online, then disappeared into the back. She returned with a small shopping bag containing a cardboard container. I signed the form. She ignored my photo ID. The bag was surprisingly heavy, this concentrated density of what once was my father. I stepped outside into the surging warmth and placed the bag in the car next to the coffee beans. The parcels were similar in size, although the ashes weighed a little more than the beans.
When I arrived at the house, Mom had me set the container on a counter in the utility room, just to the right as you enter the back door. I took Mom to her appointment. After we returned, I changed into work clothes, opened a cold beer, and went outside to continue overhauling a utility trailer Dad built when I was about ten. He gave it to me in 1984 when I moved to Kansas for graduate school. Since then, the trailer has been rebuilt several times. The final indignity for the current box was knocking a fender off with a heavy round of firewood the day before Dad went into the hospital. In the ER I told him about the fender mishap. He gave me a small smile, along with his patented “Oh yeah?”, a laconic acknowledgment that this was something out of the ordinary and in need of attention. I promised him that when I rebuilt the trailer this time, I would pack the wheel bearings with fresh grease. Bearings need fresh grease. They spin more freely.
The resistance of grief slows the spin on most of my days, even liquid warm sunshiny days in April. My grieving isn’t heavy, just the small persistent weight of loss. It holds me back a little, like a long climb up a gentle hill, or walking knee deep in surf. It is the slow grinding of land masses sliding across themselves, punctuated by intermittent tremors. It is never the Big One.