I can still smell it now – that pungent, sweet odor of tobacco emanating from its pouch.
It overpowered other aromas also his: oil paints, old leather rucksacks, and film developer.
In my mind’s eye is a row of brown briar wood pipes sitting next to a sketchpad.
Sometimes there’d also be a corncob pipe, looking so much like summertime.
That was the one I swore I’d use when old enough to smoke at his side.
I find myself in his lap, watching intently as he tamps the dried leaves into the pipe’s bowl.
When I look up, his dark eyes are dancing, playful thoughts abounding.
I’m four and a half. He’s in his mid-40s, and we have an understanding.
Neither of us will tell Mommy that he’s kept me up way beyond my bedtime
So that we can play uninterruptedly while she’s out at her meeting.
Nor will he let on that he knows I cheat when we play Concentration.
I can tell the value of the cards before they’re turned over:
The queen of spades is missing a corner and the ten of hearts is creased down the middle.
And the one that looks like it was stepped on while lying on a gravel walkway, that’s the jack of diamonds.
Daddy can’t remember their markings like I can. After all, he’s an adult.
That was then, more than two generations ago…
It was when he covered blank canvases with oils and watercolors,
Creating vibrant landscapes of pine forest, granite shoreline and blue-grey Atlantic Ocean.
It was when he took us on long walks through the woods and along rivers crisscrossed with logs, testing our knowledge of red oak, maple and hickory.
And when he played recorder and read James Thurber’s The 13 Clocks to his children.
Two days ago he would have turned one hundred. While fifty years gone, I sense him now.
He would still be puffing on one of those pipes, preparing to tell a story
Of sailing the Mediterranean, painting in Persia, or glissading down the French Alps.
Or he’d sing “Yo ho ho, the wind blows free… Oh for the life on the rolling sea…”
His spirit enthralls me, his art surrounds me, and his deep love continues to embrace me.