People Are Very Much Like Icebergs
June 21, 2004
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Someone had left a brown bag of rhubarb on the front steps early Saturday morning, so I figured I'd do a little baking while I listened to the show. I dug through my cookbooks and dog-eared several recipes -- rhubarb crisp, rhubarb sauce, rhubarb cake, and rhubarb pie if I still had some energy. You can't just throw away a sack of rhubarb. It's like anything else, like zucchini or apples or the fruitcake Mrs. Hoffmeier drops off every Christmas Eve. We stare at it for a while until someone came up with a respectful way to make use of it. One year we fed the birds with it, tying red yarn to chunks of fruitcake and dangling it from the limb of the old oak tree out back. Another year one of the kids used it as a "recent sample" in a carbon dating experiment for science class.
So there I was at the kitchen sink cutting up rhubarb, wearing my "I'm Spicy" apron my brother sent me from Cancun, watching from the window the children throwing rocks into the creek, listening to Mr. Keillor sing about his father when he sang "No matter how hard I try I still can't say goodbye." Well, the tears started rolling, let me tell you, and I wondered about my father and remembered the next morning was Father's Day. I missed him like all getout, and suddenly the rhubarb sauce wasn't as important as hearing my dad's voice.
So during the intermission I called him and it was the usual "Hi, how are ya" and "What's up" and "Wasn't I right about saving ten percent?" I listened to him talk for a while about his garden and how the peas were in trouble again, and about his upcoming fishing trip to Alaska, and how quiet it's been in the house since Mom got a part-time job decorating cakes at the Paradise Bakery. I didn't know that about her, that she knows how to make those perfect pink roses that spill over the sides of wedding cakes. I didn't know my father caught a 60 lb halibut last summer, that he injured his right knee hauling it in, or that he has been carving a chain of wood links since the year his father died of a heart attack on a Sunday in June. He doesn't know I know about the chain. My mother told me the afternoon we made a double batch of dandelion wine in their basement and she chastised me later for letting her fall asleep in the wheelbarrow.
"Well, I'll have a bunch of vegetables to bring up later in the summer," he said. "Can you use some corn? How 'bout some kohlrabi? I'll set you up with some fish, too, once September rolls around. How 'bout some rhubarb?" And he laughed this long, deep laugh ending with "Yah yah." And it occurred to me that people are very much like icebergs. Not that they're cold, but that you only see a tiny bit of what's all there, and what you don't see right off is what makes that alarm clock going off each morning a blessed, blessed thing.