My uncle Harry gave me my first piece of chewing gum. I remember it well, because that was the day my father died. They never told me how it happened, but I guess I didn’t really want to know.
It was early afternoon when my drunken father came storming down the stairs of our old farmhouse, raging and screaming. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I wish I did, because he staggered out the front door and I never saw him again.
In an hour or two, my uncle Harry showed up at the door. He told me my father wouldn’t be home for awhile, and that he would be staying with me indefinitely. When I asked what ‘indefinitely’ meant, he took a deep breath, patted me on the back and sat me down on the sofa.
“Son,” he said. “There are some things that happen that people don’t like to talk about. It makes ’em uncomfortable.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a piece of gum and handed it to me. “Here,” he said stiffly. “Chew it. Helps with the stress.”
He died the next year. I’ve been chewing ever since.