I Can’t Sleep at Night, Though My Blankets are Warm
Living as an adult in the house I grew up in means that when the furnace kicks on in the middle of a winter night, I awake to the darkness and remember my dad in every room. He makes shadow puppets on the ceiling of my upstairs bedroom, he fries a brook trout and an egg over the kitchen stove, he projects images of the thick and jungled hills of Vietnam on the living room wall. On Christmas Eve, in the bathroom, wearing a striped button-down, he spritzes on some Stetson cologne before the candle-light service at Bethel Lutheran. He’s in a rocking chair in the corner of the dining room, holding me as a baby—this little bundle of blanket and blushing skin I’ve seen in pictures—wearing his Sorels because he just came in from shoveling snow, but his hands are warm from the lining of his gloves.
I see him in the living room, in a recliner, reciting basketball scores to my mom, the room thick with the smell of pork chops and Brussels sprouts, just cooked. Then he’s in the backyard, a beer in one hand and a ping-pong paddle in the other, playing a game with a neighbor. He’s in the backyard, washing his truck with a bottle of wax-wash, the hose, and a yellow sponge. Or he’s loading the truck with a cooler, fishing poles, cross-country skis.
And then, I remember the last time I ever saw him: he’s in the hallway, in a flannel shirt, as my mother is about to drive him to the hospital. His heart is exploding in his chest, he’s scared, he’s walking out the door and getting into the van. I see his silhouette as they back down the driveway, my mom in the same pink coat she’ll be wearing when she returns hours later, alone.
Living here, I awake under the same roof my dad woke up under every morning. When I rinse out my coffee cup, water splashes down into the same sink where my dad once ran cool water over the split-open bodies of fish he’d caught, over their exposed flesh to make them clean. I look into the bathroom mirror and I pause before I brush my teeth, because in the curve of my cheekbone I can see his face, and I remember being within these walls when he gave me Trenary toast and Wheaties in the morning and clicked off my lamp in the evening, and when, under the threat of a snowstorm, he told me to not be afraid, that it meant in the morning we’d build a giant fort out of snow-bricks and inside it would be warm even if the blizzard’s wind continued to swirl.
Andrea Wuorenmaa is a creative nonfiction writer from Michigan's Upper Peninsula and an MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University. Her inspirations include traveling, nature, and winter weather. When she's not writing, she's walking her dog on the trails around her hometown of Ishpeming or researching mining history. Her work has appeared in Pithead Chapel, New Madrid, and Dark Matter.