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My Pépère This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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As I peer around the bush, I scan the field with eyes squinting from the brilliant sun. Seeing no one, I duck behind the bush and pop three deliciously sweet strawberries into my mouth, savoring each one. I stand and begin to search for the next inviting bush, but am disappointed to find that I have devoured every one of the "perfect" strawberries. I decide to change spots, and there I see him - a tall, husky man kneeling on one knee, his balding head covered with a hat and his eyes hidden behind sunglasses. I watch him. Drops of sweat bead on his face. The sun is beginning to be too much for him. He is amazing. He picks each strawberry with a precision only he possesses. Within a fraction of a second, he is able to tell the most scrumptious berries from the rotten ones.

I trot over and proudly show him my bucket, which is half full. He smiles, showing his approval. I feel good until I glance at his bucket, which is practically overflowing.

I pop a few more strawberries in my mouth and he says, "Well, that should do it." We have our berries weighed. He hands the clerk the money with his large, wrinkled hands. I race him to the car. He does not run and it doesn't matter. We begin the long journey home. There is no music and not much is said, yet the silence is greatly welcomed. I glance at the man sitting next to me and wonder how old he is. In my childish mind, I imagine ninety, at least. He senses me staring, turns to me and smiles. Ahh, that smile. It is one in a million. Through his smile, you can see it all. The warmth and love this great man possesses is amazing.

Strawberry picking was an annual event. It was always sad to see the berry season end. Today the sun doesn't seem to shine as brightly and it looks as if we won't go strawberry picking together this year. I am much older now and, by the same token, so is he. Right now, I am not with that great man; I am with my sister on our way to see him. We walk through the revolving doors, down the hall and to the elevators. His room number is E205. We walk briskly down the hall, around the corner and slowly walk through his door. I see him lying in an all-white bed with tubes coming out everywhere. He no longer looks like the great man I went strawberry picking with. Now, he looks like a defenseless, old man whose health is slowly beginning to fade.

"Hi, Pépère," I say. In almost a whisper he replies, "Hello, Angie." I don't ask how he's doing because, honestly, I don't want to know. I look at him and say nothing. My sister, mother and grandmother are there, too. He is doing his best to make conversation, but no one is sure of what to say. For me, it is as if I am in a dream. It seems utterly impossible for such an awesome man to become so helpless. It's terrifying.

After a short time, we must leave. I kiss him good-bye and tell him I love him. Reluctantly, I leave. My sister and I get in the car and journey home. There is no music and not much said, yet the silence is deafening and painful. I throw in a tape and crank up the radio, hoping to drown out the pain I am feeling.

Goodnight, Pépère.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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