A Sun Drop With My Parents

In a bit less than six hours, I’ll be closing on my parents’ house, which has stood vacant since the summer of 2009. My family is the only one that has lived in the house — when my folks decided to purchase it in 1978, it was three boards and a foundation. When we moved in on 13 August 1978, it was the first new house my parents had ever owned. With the exception of about two years of college, I basically moved out when I was seventeen, but it’s still very much the house I think of when I think about home — Christmases, birthdays, and the like. And of course, when I think about the house, I think of Mom and Dad.

So I went to the house today, for one more walkthrough before this afternoon’s signings. It’s cold and gray with flurries today in Northern Kentucky, one more dose of raw before spring really gets here. “What instruments we have agree…

I sat in the van, in the driveway, for a few minutes before I went into the house. I sent a text to Mrs. M back in Mondoville to let her know where I was, got out of the van, and walked up to the front door, carrying my keys and two bottles of Sun Drop.

You see, Sun Drop was my Dad’s favorite soda, and is typically mine as well, rivaled only by IBC Root Beer. But unlike IBC, Sun Drop isn’t sold up here — it seems to be most popular in the deeper South, what folks might think of as NASCAR country (in fact, Dale Earnhardt was apparently an endorser). While neither Dad nor I were fans of stock car racing, we both were quite keen on Sun Drop, and started drinking it when the drink was reintroduced in Tennessee in the 70s.

But when we moved to Kentucky, we learned that no one carried it, and it became something of a taste of home. When we’d head back there on family trips, we’d buy some, and if there was room in the car and the budget, we’d take some back North with us. But after my mom’s folks died, there were fewer occasions to go there, and so Sun Drop became a rare taste indeed.

Then, in their later years, more distant relatives would come up to visit, and knowing what my Dad liked, they’d bring cases of 2-liter bottles with them, like Carry Nation‘s version of Smokey and the Bandit. And when I moved to Mondoville eight years ago, Dad and I joked that one of the reasons I took the gig was to have access to the fizzy yellow drink. Dad came down to visit me twice — once to look over the house we were buying, and once with Mom, whose illness made travel difficult and rare. But when there was room in the van and the budget, we’d bring 2-liters with us at Christmas or during summer vacation. Dad said that was only fair, as he figured I’d drink a ton of it before we headed back home.

So before I left Mondoville yesterday, I bought a six-pack of Sun Drop, and as I said, I carried two of the bottles into the house. I stood in the kitchen, alone. It’s where Mom died, and as I looked out the back door, it occurred to me that I was standing where the police had found her body. Behind me was the stairwell, where Dad was found on the steps leading down to the den.

But I both never had to see those things and I always will, and I know that my parents aren’t there. Their bodies are back in Nashville, and I trust that they themselves are someplace far better. So I knew that talking to them was silly, but I did anyway, because I figure it didn’t do any harm either.

And I drank a Sun Drop there in the kitchen, and then I walked out onto the back deck. I saw buttercups blooming along the back fence, fooled by an early dose of spring before the cold weather returned today. My mom would both have loved the burst of yellow amidst the grey, and been angry that the cold weather would likely nip them within the next few days. But the entire back yard was her garden, and I suspect the new owner will be surprised from time to time by bursts of wild color at unexpected moments. I hope they please him.

I poured the second soda off the back deck — the yellow of the drink, the yellow of the distant flowers breaking the monochrome. Then I walked back inside; it’s cold today, and I didn’t think to bring a jacket, or even a long sleeved shirt.

I walked back down the stairs to the front door of the bi-level, and turning my head one way I saw the kitchen, while turning it the other way gave me a view of the stairwell. I spoke, hearing a tinny echo in my voice against the walls of the empty house.

“I love you guys. We miss you. And Dad, I hope you liked the Sun Drop.” Again, I know it was silly, but harmless, and I guess I’m glad I did it. Then I stepped outside for the last time, locked the door of what will be someone else’s house in a bit less than five hours, and drove away.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Faith, Family, Why I Do What I Do. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to A Sun Drop With My Parents

  1. MikeC says:

    Only had the pleasure of meeting your Dad on a couple of occasions. He seemed a practical guy, steeped in cool-0lder-dude wisdom. My late Father-in-law was similarly versed in cool-old-guy lore, and very much a skilled handyman. He regularly said that it was best for a house to be lived in. I’m sure your Dad would agree, and would be happy that some other family will have it.

  2. majormaddog says:

    If there is that better place that you believe in, there’s no question your folx are there. I miss them and I’m going to miss that house too.

  3. Marsha says:

    Smitty, my heart is with you today. I have a lot of good memories in that house too. Many times I laughed until I cried at the things your mom would say. I sat with your mom and cried with her the day her daddy died. I drank lots of sweet tea in her kitchen and enjoyed hearing her talk about her buttercups blooming.
    I never had any Sun Drop, but can appreciate your connection. We can’t get Cassano’s Pizza or Shuler’s Donuts around here like we can back home in Springfield, Ohio.
    I had to say goodbye to my parents’ home a couple years back and it’s hard to say goodbye to a place filled with so many memories.
    I like to think of my mom helping Jesus get my mansion ready in heaven. I’m sure that your parents are busy getting a new home ready for you too.
    May God Bless you Smitty!

  4. Maria Mcmain says:

    Smitty, Your words are beautiful, and your story so bittersweet. I live very close to the street where you grew up, and I think of you every time I pass. Now I will think of the buttercups. Just before I read your story, I went out for the mail and had the same exact thoughts your mom would have had. My daffodils have bloomed and my hyacinths are just one day purple. Here comes the cold! I never had the pleasure of meeting your mom, but it sounds like she was a fighter, and I will think of her as I pray and continue my battle against breast cancer. Yesterday was my last chemo treatment. I’m glad the flowers were here today, and I’m glad that you were too.
    Much love,

    Maria

  5. Molly Schrand Hollman says:

    Dear Smitty,

    I don’t get on facebook too often but for some reason I decided to log on today. I was so touched by your story and I thank you for sharing your thoughts. Please know that my thoughts are with you today and going forward. I’m sure your parents are looking down at you and smiling. I enjoy keeping up with you via facebook. I will try to send you an update on me when I get time.
    All the best,
    Molly

  6. Dawn says:

    Funny how a shared love of something so simple as a soda can evoke so many memories. I have annually poured a beverage on the ground in memory of one who left us too soon. It will make my graveside visit with a friend easier this weekend knowing I’m not the only one who still feels the need to do this “silly” thing.

  7. Mrs. Mondo says:

    We love you. Come home to us.
    AOHs,
    D & E

  8. I’ll be driving by there tomorrow on my way to a gig in Ohio & I’ll think of them as I always do. Glad a big piece of the putting-your-life-back-together puzzle is in place. Safe travels…

    MD

  9. nightfly says:

    Oddly, you CAN get Sun Drop here in New Jersey. I’ll make it a point to have some on hand if you make it this far North – and you are, of course, more than welcome. God bless you and your family.

  10. Lovely post. Your actions aren’t silly at all. If anything they are part of a primal impulse within us all to reconnect with the dead. I went not too long ago to the grave of a friend with a cocktail I’d picked up from his favorite bar (and bartender) in town in a to-go cup. I said a few words and poured the cocktail into the earth of his grave. It made me feel better.

  11. Kate P says:

    A thoughtful tribute both to your parents and the house. Is it purely coincidence that I saw my first-ever Sun Drop commercial a few days ago? (Apologies for trying to connect it with midwestern citrus soda Squirt but that was my only point of reference.) I guess we can get it in Philly now. If I see it, I’ll definitely try it and raise a toast to your dad.

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  13. Sandy says:

    Warren, I too still talk to my parents and a much beloved aunt. My aunt died just a month after Calvin and I married (some 31 years ago) and my parents have been gone 16 and 17 years respectively. What a wonderful tribute to your parents. I wish I had the words to adequately express my feelings for my loved ones as well as you. I know that your parents are in a much better place, just as mine are. God bless.

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  15. Rolla says:

    Wow Prof.
    Mad props for your positive perspective.

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