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Sophi's Smile

By J. Delaney-HowePublished 2 years ago 4 min read
Photo by Chandan Chaurasia on Unsplash

Today is a perfectly mucky spring day to plant a garden. Actually, it is more like "this is when the grandkid will be here, and it's a week too early to plant" kind of day.

"Papa, what is this big thing?" Sophi asks, pointing to the rain barrel.

She asks a lot of questions. A whole lot of questions. Her curiosity is never-ending, and I love that about her.

"That is a rain barrel. When it rains, it fills up with water and then we use it to water the garden. Pretty clever, huh?

"Like you, Papa." She says with her hands behind her back and a big smile on her face.

There isn't anything I adore more on this earth than that baby girl's smile.

"How did YOU get so smart?" she asks, poking me in my side.

"I stayed in school and did my homework, and I studied real, real hard!" I say, crouched down to her level.

I'm impressed with myself for not bursting into laughter. That could not have been further from the truth about me. I dropped out to help daddy on the farm. But she doesn't need to know that about her Papa.

"Okay, Sophi, ready to start planting? Get your muck boots on, and we are going to plant the marigolds first."

"Mary-golds, Mary-golds," she says as she skips away.

She is very smart and very coordinated for her age. Her mommy and daddy are doing a great job raising her. My son is proving to be a better father than I was. He has learned from my mistakes and the hurts I caused and works hard not to pass that on to his children.

"Hey Papa, ya know what sounds like muck?"

My restraint as a mature, middle-aged man is being tested at this point.

"Duck! Quack quack," I yell back.

She giggles, which turns into a belly laugh that only kids can make. It's contagious, and I catch it. So we were both in full-on, hysterical laughter.

The plot has been laid out, and the soil was turned already. I did that the day before.

"Okay, Sweets, let's plant these marigolds. It looks like it's going to rain." I say.

So she uses her little shovel, and digs a hole. I place a plant in each spot she dug, and she packs the soil down. We have a good system going, you know?

Her mom calls her from the porch, "C'mon sweetie, it's time to come in! It's going to rain."

Sophi turns toward the porch, drops her shovel, and then runs. She stops, turns around, comes jogging back to me.

She says, "I love you, Papa," and kisses my rough cheek.


"That is very good, Micheal. That is the farthest you have been able to get talking about that day," Dr. Avery said.

"I still can't bring myself to remember the rest of that day. I know what happened. I know they are gone. But it is like my mind just won't let me go there."

She contemplated for a minute. "What if you tried to write your memories from the rest of the day?"

"I don't know. I'm not much of a writer."

"Michael. You are paralyzed by grief. Your wife says you hardly talk anymore. You haven't seen your other grandchildren. Michael?"

"I heard you!" he snapped back. "What do you want me to say? Yes, I remember them backing out of the driveway. Yes, I remember the truck hitting them and falling to my knees, making such a guttural noise that I didn't know I could make. Why do I have to talk about it and re-live it? In one instant, I lost my son, my daughter-in-law, and my-" his sobbing wouldn't allow him to continue.

Six Months Later

Today is a perfect spring day to start planting. I contemplated starting with the vegetables, but we always started with the marigolds. Hell, I thought about skipping the marigolds this year. But we have had marigolds around our garden since I was a boy. So I start planting the marigolds around the outside perimeter, just like we always have. As I make my way to the back porch, I turned to look at the marigold border around the garden, and as clear as can be, I can see Sophi with her hands behind her back, smiling at me with that smile. And there isn't anything I adore more on this earth than that baby girl's smile.


About the Creator

J. Delaney-Howe

Husband. Father. Artist. Writer. Seeker.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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