Every year they do it, and have for as many decades as he can remember. Rain or shine, sickness or health. They pick up a cheap bottle of wine and toast the Old Man and curse him and bless him. They drive to the Nation’s Capital to leave homemade Valentines and pictures at the foot of the Wall, and to run their fingers over the names of the fathers they never met. At the Summer Solstice, he takes a young man – his own son or someone else’s – far into the woods and teaches him how to find his own food and his own way and his own soul. Every year they roast chestnuts over the first fire of winter and read a poem or a story that has touched one of them deeply. Like clockwork, they meet at the shore when the blueberries are peaking, and make cobbler and jelly and jam. When he moves into a new home, before he unpacks a single box, he gathers stones and creates a medicine wheel and a quiet place to pray. Every Wednesday, he buys flowers from the red-haired woman in front of the courthouse. Roses, if she has them; daffodils, if she doesn’t. He gives her a twenty, tells her to keep the change, and gives the flowers away to the first old man he sees. He does it every Wednesday, and has for as many decades as he can remember.
Excerpted from What There is to Love About A Man, by Rachel Snyder (Sourcebooks, 1999). This book is currently out-of-print, though limited used and perfectly imperfect copies may be bought for cheap right here at amazon.com and other places.