I have my father’s hands. My knubby-knuckled fingers upon my keyboard are his knubby-knuckled fingers, our pinkies, inward crooked, brave in their stretch to meet the A and the L. My manner of typing is just like his was, my short fingers tapping furiously like the bones of ancients punching out words that refuse to be quiet. The backs of my small but sturdy hands, are, like his, bony and painted by prominent veins, weathered and textured with life. Since my father died, when he was barely 57 as I will turn myself this year, I have not wished for the smooth perfection of the model hands in skin cream advertisements. My hands are far more lovely, freckled with memories of my father.
Shared, these hands of ours, like our flagrant foreheads, forceful minds, and fierce opinions, delivered through thin lips, not pursed so much as certain in the forthrightness of the words they breathe. I miss my dad, especially since Mack died, the loss of them entangled in a knotty central ache that resides in my solar plexus. Whereas Mack’s spirit sits upon my shoulder every day pointing me in the direction of joy, my dad’s spirit rides shotgun on my conscience. Mack reminds me to giggle in the present, and my dad reminds me to do right and plan for the future.
Every year since Jim Pratt left this earth, I have honored his joyful life by drinking a Pepsi on his birthday. He was passionate about Pepsi, a Pepsi zealot really, preaching its virtues over godless sodas like the Dr. Pepper I favored as a child, although it was not allowed in our household where Pepsi was religion. Even though I no longer drink soda (my dad called it pop), and despite the fact that I observe a tradition of no-sugar Januarys, for love of him I have a Pepsi every January 17. It has been my Pepsi-for-Pops tradition.
Although I have my father’s hands and his forehead, I do not share his love of Pepsi. I never have. I hate it, in fact. It is too sweet, too syrupy, or too something I’m not sure what. My dad was right about a lot of things—like the wonder of words and baseball and candy and ice-cream drumsticks and showing off while shooting pool. (Thanks to my dad, I can still make a great shot with the cue stick behind my back, my ass perched up on the edge of the pool table).
But my dad was wrong about Pepsi, poor dear. And after twenty-two years of consuming 250 calories of the wretched liquid in no-sugar Januarys, I’ve decided to alter the tradition to make it a more palatable one for me. I will still break the sugar fast and have a soda in honor of my dear old dad, loved and missed like the dickens. But henceforth it will be a delicious Dr. Pepper that I consume. I trust my father will appreciate the sentiment of my continued sugar-fast-breaking-soda toast to him on his birthday and also approve of his daughter’s newfound sugary beverage independence.
A Pop for my Pops, a new tradition that honors us both.