Sandy Hook, Proving Ground, Military Ordinance, stroke, morningMoments before my first stroke, the first bad one, I was overcome by the smell of waffles and hot syrup, a real olfactory wallop, that starchy essence of seared batter and the sharp carbon zing of scalded sugar. I was sitting at my desk doing nothing special after the Tuesday morning staff meeting, and, bang, there it was. Waffles. And syrup.

I probably haven’t eaten a waffle in forty years. Fifty. Pancakes, either. I never ate like that. Even as a kid, I was a careful eater. I’d eat a bowl of Wheaties or an apple. My father would make waffles, that was his thing, he had about forty minutes of fatherhood a week in him, and he used it up on Sunday mornings, making waffles. He left us when I was eight. My daughter’s like me, a poached egg would be a big deal. Most days, especially toward the end, after Marjorie and me finally called it quits, I got by on a cup of coffee, black, and a Power Bar. Now, of course, it’s a mouthful of juice from one of these devious single-serving containers the nurse has to peel open for me, and a spoonful or two of creamed wheat.

But that smell of waffles, it was so intense; it was like two poles connected by an electrical current over a vast distance, the air cleared by a powerful crackling charge, and then I was on my knees, wedged sideways between desk and chair, stunned and shivering, seeing so suddenly and clearly all the years that have passed while I haven’t done a thing.

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Oak and Acorn

Winter, 1962

Winter, 1962

Owen has his own way.

If I take a Nerf football out onto the front lawn and engage him in a game of catch, he’ll take up the game with great excitement. He’s six years old now and already has a fairly strong, accurate throwing arm. His catching, it should be said, needs some work, but he’s perfectly happy to toss the ball back and forth for five or six or seven exchanges.

After that, he’ll start to tinker with the framework of what we’re doing. First, he’ll decide that we should be kicking the ball to each other. This will send me scurrying around the yard in pursuit of errant kicks, to Owen’s great amusement. Then he’ll decide that we should be standing with our backs to each other and tossing the ball backwards over our heads. Or hiking the ball between our legs to each other.
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