It’s October now, so I think we’ve pretty much seen the last of the local peaches for sale at the corner fruit stands, right? Except, of course, for a few peach outliers.
Anyway, for 6-8 weeks as late summer morphs into early autumn here along the Wasatch Front, I eat fresh peaches like. It’s. My. Job. I don’t discriminate. I am an equal-opportunity peach employer. If you are a peach, I will find a place for you in my life. Suncrest. O’Henry. Red Haven. Angelus. Elberta. Do you hear that, peaches? I love you all.
Did I get my fill of peaches this season? Of course not. I never do. But at least I was on my game, unlike last year.
What can I say about this time last year? That it was hard? Yes. That it was tender? Of course. That our family knew we were headed for that moment when our lives would be reordered? Yes. That, too. It was clear to all of us who loved him that my father’s health was failing fast.
He’d had a bad summer, so I started driving down to Provo regularly to be with him and my mother. We’d spend time in the family room where Dad would sit in his chair close to the fireplace because, even though it was August, he was often cold. We’d talk about the people he knew and he’d tell stories. Some of them I’d heard before, like the ones about his old Lincoln High School football coach, Sanky Dixon. Some of them were new to me, like the one about the time he and his friends stole into a neighbor’s chicken coop, only to be discovered by the good-natured neighbor himself, who didn’t seem to be the least a) surprised or b) angered by the sight of kids in the chicken coop at midnight.
Meanwhile, whenever Mom would leave, she’d say, “Don’t let your father give the rest of his lunch to the dog.” And then as soon as she’d walk out the door, he’d give the rest of his lunch to the dog.
“Don’t tell your mother,” he’d say. The problem is that food just didn’t taste good to him anymore, he’d say.
Except for the peaches.
Bottled peaches tasted especially good to him, which was a change. The son of a truck farmer, he’d always preferred fruit fresh. But then everything was changing. So Mom broke out her old-timey canning skills and lined their kitchen counter with jars full of sliced amber fruit floating in sweet rosy liquid.
One day when we were watching an old movie — I watched a lot of old movies last summer, which led me to conclude that not every film made during Hollywood’s golden era was actually golden — I told Dad I was disappointed in myself.
Why? he asked.
Because I didn’t eat enough peaches this year, I told him. And now the season is almost over. Sad face!
Later that day, Dad slipped out of the house. When he returned, he held a small white paper bag — the kind with a handle — full of the season’s last peaches. Peach outliers.
Here, he said. These are for you.
People, of course, are often remembered for the big things they did in this life.
But, in the end, it’s the small gestures that define who they really were.