The coming arrival of fall is apparent here in New Hampshire, and its drier, cooler breezes were most welcome on a recent hike we took this past week to the top of Black Cap Mountain.
On the way back down the mountain, Shawn and I started chatting at some point about food, and the subject of using coconut in something bubbled up. Then, a random rumination floated across my mind: ‘Dad didn’t like coconut at all… or, wait… was it Mom that didn’t like it?’ I didn’t speak this thought out loud, as the subject of our chatter changed and then eventually fell silent as we took in the beauty of the forest around us.
Later on that night, as I was getting ready for bed, I thought of it again, trying to remember which one of my parents really did not like the taste of coconut, and I felt a deep sadness wash over me for a moment when I realized that an intimate detail of their likes and dislikes seemed lost to me forever.
I do remember how much my mother hated the taste of coffee, and of peanut butter. And how much my father really hated the taste of anything mint – even toothpaste – and of licorice. She loved cashews and cantaloupe. He loved raw onions and pickled eggs.
I’ve written plenty about grief before, about how it comes out of remission in these strange and unexpected ways. This whole thing about the taste of coconut may seem silly – until you realize that it confronts you with the preciousness of these memories, and with the impermanence of memory and of life itself.
Then a cascade of worrying thoughts can carry me down some mournful path: What else have I forgotten? What else will I forget in time?
And then – the call of a chickadee in the woods, or the crunch of stones under my feet, or the feeling of the breath coming and going and supporting my hiking and grieving and singing and remembering – something brings me back to this moment, to this chance to be grateful for the fact that my parents ever lived to either like or dislike coconut, and for the fact that I can remember and forget anything at all.