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Pinwheels and Peach Nectar

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.


About treacycolbert

I make my living by writing about health care. I've always written about life's chastening effect, but just as a way of sorting it out for myself. After years of doing this and keeping these essays quiet, I decided to put some of these impressions out there on this blog. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

10 responses »

  1. What a great memory, Treac. I wish I had been able to know Mark, he had to be amazing.
    We’ve talked about it before, but reading this just reminded me again how we just miss them more the longer they are away. It becomes, though, so much softer a feeling; not the sharp ache it once was. Thanks for sharing this moment.

  2. What a beautiful remembrance. Mark is somewhere, smiling, and watching pinwheels in his mind’s eye. Even the briefest moments of pure love last into forever, don’t they?

  3. What a beautiful tribute to the love you and Mark shared… I got chills reading the story about him coming to your door with the pinwheel. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Treacy.

  4. I started reading this without realizing it was about Mark…and then…oh, what a beautiful remembrance you’ve written! I love the story about the pinwheels…the coincidence and symmetry of it, the mutual understanding and affinity it revealed, and the very idea, no mere pinwheels these, but veritable poems. (And it makes sense that he’d love peach nectar…such sweetness to savor, the pure unmitigated goodness of it.) I too remember Mark’s intellect, his idealism, his whimsy. He was almost an anachronism in some ways, like someone from another century, tending to things with care, shoes shined, promises kept, so gentle and kind and soft spoken, living with such gratitude and grace. “It is our great joy and honor to reflect the light of the universe back to its source. Whether we call the source ‘God’, or stand in silence before what we cannot fully comprehend, its effect must be to fill our hearts with gladness. ” (Yes, I still have the book of his writings on the shelf here by my desk, and someplace, a handwritten letter or two.) This post triggered so many cherished memories of Mark, Treacy…and that’s proof that he still lives.

    • Cynthia, Thanks so much for quoting from Mark’s writing, and for remembering the brilliant polish of his shoes! (That was one of the many things about him that impressed my mother right away.)

  5. Thanks for this, Treacy. What a terrific moment to carry with you.

  6. Pingback: Our Way in the Night: Remembering Mark Haunfelner | Still Amazed

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