From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

On the Nose

Ahappy family is but an earlier heaven.

Sir John Bowring

I will never forget the day I arrived home from kindergarten to find my dad opening the door for me. At first, I was elated. “Dad! You’re home!” As a doctor in training, he was hardly ever home. Often, he had to spend nights at the hospital working thirty-six-hour shifts.

Dad did not waste any time with pleasantries. “Your mother has had an accident.”

I dropped my school bag. Horrible visions swam across my eyes. Then my stomach lurched. I was sure I would throw up. Fighting back tears and swallowing hard, I hugged my dad. “What happened?” My need to know outweighed my fear of the answer.

“She was reaching for something in the closet, and her train case fell on her.”

My mom had this small, hard suitcase that she always put her makeup in when she traveled. She never went anywhere by train, yet she called it her “train case.”

“It broke her nose. I had to rush home to fix it.”

“Oh.” Good thing he was a doctor. “Where is she?”

Dad hugged me tight. “She’s upstairs sleeping. Let her rest.”

Was he kidding? For several seconds that felt like an eternity, I had thought that something horrible, something deadly, had happened to my mother. I had to see her.

I tried to get out of his grasp. “Please. I have to see she’s okay.”

Finally, Dad relented. “Just look. Don’t wake her.”

We tiptoed up the stairs. Dad opened the door so slowly I thought I’d die of anticipation. There she was, on her back under the covers, her nose and eyes covered with white bandages. Her always-perfect red hair stuck out in every direction. I watched her chest to be sure it was moving. It was.

Dad led me downstairs. “Well, it’s just you and me, kiddo. Doesn’t Mom give you a snack when you come home from school?”

“Yeah,” I mumbled apprehensively, entering the kitchen. The table was set with two placemats complete with silverware, napkins and glasses.

“I’ve been getting it ready.” Dad poured me a glass of milk. “There, nice and cold right out of the fridge like you like it.” Then he added a large ice cube. I smiled, forgetting my mother’s trauma for the moment. I didn’t think Dad noticed these things. He actually knew I put ice in my milk—just one ice cube.

As the fear about my mother subsided, and the awe of my dad increased, my body returned to normal. My senses began working again. I inhaled deeply. “Mmmm.” Something smelled good. Dad put on oven mitts and opened the oven door. “I hope you like it. Haven’t made it since my college days. Don’t know how to make anything chocolate.”

He did it again. He knew that chocolate was one of my favorite things, especially with milk.

“Baked apples,” Dad announced. He put one apple on each of the two plates that sat waiting and then brought them to the table. Dad sliced mine open for me and steam rose out, filling the air with the scent of apples, cinnamon and raisins. And nuts. I hesitated. Dad always told us about apples, raisins and walnuts. I did not like walnuts, only pecans.

“Careful, it’s hot,” he warned. “And don’t worry. I used pecans.”

“Pecans? Great.”

“Well, let’s see if this worked.”

Dad scooted his chair close to mine as he moved toward the table. I leaned against him, and he managed to cut the apple with his arm wrapped around me. The warm snack heated my insides, and Dad’s love filled me from the outside.

Sure Dad worked really hard and had to be away a lot. But he paid attention more than I knew. He cared. I was sorry that it took Mom breaking her nose for us to share this moment. So, even at age five, I was determined to pay more attention to the things he liked and steal more moments like these without waiting for something bad to happen.

D. B. Zane

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