Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of Jim since I met him in 1968. He died almost three years ago and remains with me through memories of the life we shared. Sometimes the little things, or pebbles, become lost in the big rocks, or major events. When something triggers our thoughts, we discover a pebble hidden by the shadows.
As I exited church last Sunday, I caught the scent of green apple gum. I smiled, and I assume that everyone just thought I was happy, or being friendly. In that moment, I could feel Jim’s presence beside me, and he definitely was not happy.
When our kids were small, they thought green apple gum was the best tasting gum available. Jim would not tolerate the gum in the house, or even worse, the car.
“Who’s chewing that stinky gum!” he would shout, as he glared into the rearview mirror at the kids. The offending child would roll his window down and spit the gum out. It became a joke in the family that Jim could not tolerate the smell of green apple gum. This is a man who liked limburger cheese, which in my opinion, smells like road kill. A small piece of green apple gum made his stomach roll, and he would retch if exposed to the smell very long.
One time we drove to Kansas with our friends, Rick and Sandy. We stopped at a rest area to get gas, and Sandy who had heard of Jim’s legendary aversion to green apple gum, bought some. “This will be so funny!” she said as she paid the clerk.
“Sandy, he won’t see the humor in it,” I warned her.
As soon as Rick pulled his van out of the parking lot and headed down I-70, Sandy started shoving green apple gum into her mouth until she had such a wad of it she could hardly chew it. As soon as the smell released, Jim whipped his head around and shouted, “Who’s chewing green apple gum!”
“I am,” Sandy said meekly, aware now that it really set him off. Without being told, she opened a window and threw the gum out.
That was the last time I smelled green apple gum until Sunday at church. I shook hands with the pastor and left the building. Jim would have hunted down the person with the green apple gum and informed them they were polluting his air space. That was the Jim I knew and loved, and the one that sometimes exasperated me.
I have never chewed green apple gum, and never will. I don’t have the low tolerance for it that Jim had, but a whiff of green apple gum pelts my senses with a pebble of memory. Green apple gum triggers a random remembrance of the complex and very human man who shared my life for 37 years and still lives in my heart.