In a radio interview I heard a few months ago, singer Rosanne Cash mentioned visiting her famous father’s grave and bringing two cups of coffee. The interviewer seemed puzzled and asked, “Why, because you thought you were going to be there for a long time?” I knew instantly what Cash meant before she answered, “No, I brought one for him, too.”
My late husband Mark wasn’t a caffeinated kind of guy, so when I visited his grave today, on the 25th anniversary of his death, I brought a can of his favorite peach nectar. The sweet drink, the product of that most beautiful fruit, helped me keep my resolve to reflect and talk only about the good things about him and his life, and resist the temptation to dwell on the sorrow of his illness and death.
Mark was a writer, and a brilliant one. Not long after I met him in 1984, I spotted a pencil with a tiny pinwheel on top in a gift shop in Laguna Beach, where I lived at the time. I bought it for him right away. It was for no occasion, but I planned to give it to him that evening, and joke that if he sat in a breeze so that the pinwheel would spin, it would help him write faster.
I forget now where we were scheduled to go that night. Mark was never late, so the knock came at 7 on the dot. I flung the door open but stopped in shock before I could even say hi. He was grinning, holding out a full-sized pinwheel. “This is for you,” he said. I took it wordlessly, then wheeled and rushed into my bedroom to get the pinwheel-topped pencil.
We laughed at the incredible coincidence—neither of us had seen or thought of pinwheels since we were kids. “I just thought you’d like it,” Mark said. “Remember holding them out the car window?” That spontaneous small gift was the essence of Mark. Along with his intellectual, studious side, and his remarkable, prodigious brain, he was uncomplicated and fun, and revealed the occasional streak of whimsy.
I don’t have the pinwheel Mark gave me – the delicate toy eventually fell apart. I still have his pencil, though, a sweet reminder of a giddy and precious day.