For many years after the killing of the big bear…time was reckoned by Balser as beginning with that event.  In speaking of occurrences, events, and dates, he always fixed them in a general way by saying, “That happened before I killed the big bear;” or, “That took place after I killed the big bear.”  The great immeasurable eternity of time was divided into two parts:  that large unoccupied portion preceding the death of the big bear, and the part, full to overflowing with satisfaction and pride, after that momentous event.

~The Bears of Blue River by Charles Major

I took his hand in mine and told him I loved him, then leaned down and kissed him on the forehead.  Weak and pale, my father had withered to a mere 84 pounds over the course of his illness.  I gazed down at his frail hand, and concentrated on the soft throb of his heartbeat.

I squeezed his hand and raised it to my cheek.  Secretly I noticed for his pulse again, but this time his heart was still.  I waited; my own heart thumped harder. I realized it was not my imagination this time.

I thought about all the beautiful things he had made, how he held me before bed when I was small and all the birthday cakes he had decorated.  I always thought it was funny when he slathered Vicks all over his nose at night, and how the way he ate his cereal irritated my mother.  Then I remembered how he cradled his head in his hands from the headaches, the bloody handkerchiefs he held to his nose, and how his hands shook sometimes.  Reluctantly, I laid his hand down beside him, and let him go.

There was a designated place in my mind where I stored those three years.  The terms malignant and benign were tucked away in there.  Every episode of amnesia, every seizure and radiation treatment was boxed up and stacked out of sight.  His death filled the remaining space. When I was finally able to move, I ran outside.  The screen door slammed behind me, and I locked it all away.

My father was an artist, preacher, and veteran- a man who’s every endeavor from birthday cakes to sermons was a masterpiece.  Those awful memories remain in their vault, but I embrace the pleasant thoughts of a hero who loved God and country, his family, and to create.

In Memory,

Larry L. McCalip, Sr.

May 14, 1937-August 17, 1993

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