The Hardest Person to Forgive

Even Four Decades Later

By Aisha Marie

My father was my hero while I was growing up, and I was his baby. I adored that man. In my eyes he was the smartest, strongest man in the world. A logger by trade, he could name every species of tree in the Northwest, and he used to take me for long walks, pointing out one after another to teach me their names. White pine, Douglas fir, spruce, tamarack . . . they all blurred together for me, but he could identify them at a distance. He loved nature and wanted to share everything with me. I simply enjoyed spending time with him. The warmth of the sun would cause the sap to ooze from the massive trunks surrounding us, its resinous odor perfuming the air. I would breathe deeply, filling my lungs with the scent. Years later, that scent still transports me to the innocence of childhood.

On warm summer nights, my father and I would go outside and lie on our backs, side by side on the ground, looking up at the stars so far away. He’d point out the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, the North Star, asking if I could see them. If I said no, he would keep pointing, outlining and connecting the stars, forming the constellations with his finger until I found what he was showing me. Often, I couldn’t really see what he was seeing but in my desire to please him, I lied and said that I did. If he knew I was lying, he never let on.

On rainy days we stayed indoors and he taught me about weather and cloud formations, showing me the readings on the wooden barometer that he kept hanging by the kitchen door. I didn’t understand those pressure readings or how they related to the weather, but he would explain again and again, as if he could somehow will the information into my head. He was keen to teach me, and was never discouraged when my interest lagged.

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