I Love You Four Times.

8 Feb

I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I would have to say it four times before the repetition pulled on his pity or on his heart and he would return the words. “I love you too”, he would reply gruffly as if he was asking me to pass him a wrench or was making a comment in passing about that god damned rain again. Papa wasn’t a man of words, he couldn’t read or write so he kept it simple and communicating the gamut of emotions was out of his comfort zone. His actions and the softness in his vibrant blue eyes told me that although he was resistant to telling me the words, he really did love me.

One Box

Someone had bought my little cousin popsicles and I, being a pregnant teenager, wanted my own box of popsicles but no one had bent to my desire and plucked a box from the grocery store. Papa overheard this although I never said it directly to him and when we began the hour and a half long drive to his house he stopped at the local Safeway. He pulled his truck into park and took the keys out of the ignition. “I’ll be right back,” he said coarsely without looking at me as he exited the vehicle.

I sat in the passenger seat, my head stuck up against the window. It was raining out and the droplets on the window exterior provided me an alternate view of the world. The droplets warped my perspective just enough that I felt as if I was an observer, a fixture of some sort witnessing everyday life. I wanted to melt into the scenery and I watched creepishly with my face stuck up against the window as people entered and exited the store, dragging small children along behind bloated shopping carts. The door opened and Papa had one item in his hand as he sat back in the seat. Popsicles. “Here you go,” he said as he stuck them in the middle seat and fired up the truck. I squealed and a small smile manifested on Papa’s face as we drove out of the parking lot.

Heat The House

My son was born a hefty 9lbs 5ozs and when Papa asked me if he could hold him I hesitated and my eyes grew in size. He was a sturdy baby but still small and fragile and Papa’s hands were large coarse wrinkled ones that seemed to papapandbabyfunction with some childlike quality. Papa looked at me while I tried to come up with a sound reason to not pass my child over to him. “Helen, for Christ’s sakes, I’m not going to drop the kid. I’ve held babies before,” he said as he reached over and took my son from my hands.

He then pretended as if he was going to drop my newborn child then howled at my reaction.

“You shoulda seen your face. I’ve never dropped a baby in my life!” he laughed.

You had to be able to laugh a lot and grow thick skin with Papa.

A few weeks later my Papa and Grandma came to visit but found my son and I tucked away in our room with the electric heater going. We hadn’t had a working furnace in my parent’s house in years and when the temperature dropped below 30 degrees Celsius the house became an ice box. The cold seeped through your feet and wrapped itself around you letting its presence be known so that it was in every second thought. I want to make a sandwich. I’m cold. Maybe some turkey on it? God it’s freezing. Wait what was that book suggestion? Fuck it, I’m frozen.

Papa knocked on my door and came into the bedroom. I had my son in his bassinet with a blanket over him and the heater close to it, whirring the warm air towards his chubby body. Papas blue eyes peered at me from the door and I could feel the cold air force its way into our tiny heated asylum.

“It’s cold,” Papa said, a look of worry and concern on his face.

“Yes Papa, that’s why we are in here. So we don’t turn into icicles,” I laughed as I replied.

Papa’s eyes looked at my son in his bassinet and I could see how the cold tore into his heart.

“I’ll be back,” he said.

Less than an hour later Grandma and him were back with a gigantic electric heater from Canadian Tire. It was some insane high output heater that made the living room and kitchen a liveable temperature. Papa seen what needed to be done and did it even with the small amount of money that they did have. That…. Was love.

Loaves of Love

“This is sure nice Helen, yuh” Papa would say after the first bite of every banana bread loaf I ever made for him.

Even if I knew I botched the recipe or overcooked it he would always smile and lie to my face with a genuine love of my crappy banana bread. “Thanks my girl,” Papa would say and I would feel satisfied with his blatant lie. Each loaf was made because out of care and love for him and I assembled the ingredients three times a month to give him that knowledge. They were his and his alone.

I haven’t baked banana bread since his death.

Eggs. Bananas. Brown Sugar. Salt. Baking Soda. Butter. Vanilla. I love you, four times.

I say jokingly, the next time I make banana bread it will be salty because of all the tears that will go into it. People say that you speak the truth when you’re joking and it allows you to hide behind the humour. This is one of those times.

30 Pound Kiss

My son was two years old and weighed some odd 30 pounds. I watched as he scooted his way over to Papa and put his arms up. Papa lifted his big boy body up and gave him a kiss while making funny noises. My son laughed and ran a few feet then turned around again with his arms raised in the air. This repeated a half a dozen times and each time I watched my Papa, straining under the impacts of his lung cancer, lift my son dutifully and kiss him. I could see the effort hiding behind his face every time my son came back to him and see the small relief when my son finally wandered away to play with a toy that caught his eye.

Papa had evolved into a man of affection. We would sit on the couch together, me at age 21, nestled into the crook of his arm. His arm hanging stiffly around me, but cocooning me nonetheless as we sat together. I, trying not to ruin these moments, almost sure that if I spoke too much he would recall his physical and verbal display of emotion handicap and remove his arm. He never did though, and in those few minutes I’d smile inside knowing I worked my lifetime repeating I love you and baking banana bread for these candid moments.

I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

papaOur matching tattys. ❤


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