My father gives me the rock he’s found. “I was walking back to the car,” he says. “After we stopped for lunch. And there it was, right by the front wheel. So I picked it up and brought it to you. I know you like to collect them.” He holds out his hand with the rock sitting in his palm and he smiles at me. I smile back and pick up the rock. It’s sort of shaped like an L, like someone’s cut a chunk out of a cube of rock. It’s pale pink with sharp, jagged edges.
I do collect rocks. It doesn’t matter to me what size the rocks are, but the smoother and rounder they are, the better I like them. Two rocks the size and shape of bowling balls sit beside the planter on the front porch. I found one of them in the Agawa Canyon; it almost went right through the bottom of the canoe when my husband pulled it out of the water.
A jar of rocks sits on the corner of my desk. There’s a bowl of rocks in the centre of the coffee table and a basketful on the back porch.
“Thanks Dad,” I say and put the rock in the bowl. All of the other rocks in the bowl are smooth and round and pale gray. The one he's given me makes it look like someone’s about to play a game of one of these things doesn’t belong, one of these things is not like the others.
This is how my father’s mind works now. He latches onto one word and he remembers that one thing but not its relationship to anything else. He’s remembered that I collect rocks but he has no idea what kind. I wonder if he remembers the hours we’ve spent on beaches or along trails or at the side of the road picking out the one best rock – the smoothest, roundest rock we can find. Sometimes we found rocks that were perfect except they were too big. He’d offer to go home and come back with the truck and shovels and maybe a winch but I’d say, “I worry about the weight in the trunk of my car.” Then I’d pick another rock and say, “This one’s good, this one I can carry. I'll take this one instead.”
Often when I went home to visit there’d be little groups of fist-sized rocks by the front door or the door of the garage or on the steps leading to the screened-in porch. I’d hold them in my hand one by one, finally choosing one and holding it up. “Is it okay if I take this one home?”
He’d say, “Oh, I knew you’d pick that one. Didn’t I tell you,” he’d say to my mother, “that she’d pick that one, that she wouldn’t be able to resist?”