Dad’s Peppermint Candies

Eileen L. Ziesler

My father has been a peppermint candy addict for as long as I have known him.  In the early years of my childhood, my mother would buy a cellophane bag of the white chalky disks each week at the grocery store.  Opened bags of these candies were found everywhere:  in his trumpet case, in the truck glove compartment, in the telephone cabinet, and next to his easy chair by the television.  He probably had some by his bedside and some on the dusty shelves of his workshop.  I would suppose a number of these unwrapped candies also melted in the washing machine.

It would seem progress was made when he converted to the individually wrapped variety, a hard white candy with red stripes.  Now he could stash a few in pockets and shelves and drawers in a more sanitary manner.  Stash them he did, offering them to his grandchildren on every occasion.  One would think this addiction harmless and that I, his only child, would be tolerant of his habit.  However I was not.  It was not the consumption of the candy that caused me distress; it was in his disposal of the cellophane wrapper.  If he was in the house, the wrappers accumulated on tables.  Out of doors, the clear, two-inch square of crinkled plastic dropped from his hand to the ground whenever he opened a candy.  It was the littering that irritated me.  Without ever commenting, I would pick up the wrapper from the ground and put it in my pocket.  He never mentioned my compulsion nor did he learn from my example.

Plastic does not degrade.  However, in the six months since my father’s death, I have seen less and less of the wrappers.  The ones I’ve missed may have blown away or may have become buried under new layers of dying leaves and grass.

Recently, my husband swept out the garage where my father parked his trucks and stored parts of cars from the time he built the garage in the early 70’s.  His 1971 Ford pick-up truck needed to be sold, moved from this garage where it had been parked for almost forty years.  It probably hadn’t been driven for more than a day at a time in the last ten years.  Now it was time to move the truck but my husband couldn’t find the keys.  He searched for two days in all the places my dad kept keys.  He searched in the truck. He searched on the key rack in our house.  No keys.

Together, we went to the garage and looked in all the hiding places people place keys as an insurance policy against locking the keys in a vehicle, still, no keys.  Frustrated, we returned home and before leaving for an errand he said to me, “Now DON’T touch any of those keys. (He referred to the key rack holding over thirty sets of keys) I have them ALL sorted!”

After he left, I walked over to the key rack, staring at the row of keys, fully aware that he had looked through the rack at least three or four times.  He knew exactly what the missing key looked like.  I did not.  Nevertheless my hand reached out to the farthest end of the key rack, into the corner of the room and against all my better judgment I removed one key ring.  There were three keys and a small flashlight on the ring.  A piece of masking tape was wrapped around the flashlight and on the tape was written, ’71 Ford’.

I hiked the quarter mile across the field to my father’s property, opened the side door to the garage, opened the door to the truck, and climbed up into the seat.  I inserted the key into the ignition and started the truck.  When the old motor was holding it’s own without the choke, I climbed down, out of the truck to open the main garage door.  At my feet, on the newly swept garage floor, were two peppermint candy wrappers.