Chasing Rainbows A Novel - By Long, Kathleen


Some people leave behind notes. Some leave behind journals. Some leave life lessons carefully documented for the good of future generations.

My dad left cryptograms.

Word puzzles designed to tax my brain cells.

As if I needed any help in that area.

“Were you expecting something different?” My mother barely glanced up from the bed where she sorted Dad’s shirts and sweaters. Button-collared shirts. Flannel shirts. Crew-neck sweaters. Vests.

I wasn’t half as organized in life as she was in death.

“I wasn’t expecting anything at all.” Hell, I hadn’t been expecting him to die.

She emptied the contents of Dad’s sock drawer next to a stack of cardigans. “It’s the perfect time of year to get these to charities.”

The bright note of her tone didn’t fool me. She might be all perky determination on the outside, but inside her soul was just as shattered as mine.

Since my dad’s sudden death a week earlier, I hadn’t thought much could surprise me, but finding my mother here today, prepping Dad’s clothes for charity, had.

Actually, surprised wasn’t the best word.

Dismayed. Saddened. Stunned.

Any of those more accurately reflected what I felt.

My mother and I had sat with Dad for twelve hours after his aortic dissection, watching him slip away. Afterward, I’d driven her home, to the house where they’d spent more than fifty years together.

She’d stared out the windshield of my car, saying nothing. Her world had tilted on its side and I couldn’t fix it, even though I wished somehow I could.

“I’ll take good care of you, Mom,” I’d said.

And she had answered, “I can take care of myself.”

Her words hadn’t been sharp or short, but determined. She’d always been one of those women who turned heads simply because of the energy she emitted. Strong. Poised. Classic.

A survivor.

Maybe clearing out Dad’s clothes helped her cope, helped her survive.

On the other hand, I wanted to hold on to whatever I could.

I refocused on the pages of Dad’s book, skimming his meticulous printing.


I looked up from my study of Dad’s perfect block lettering to Mom’s heartbroken eyes.

“Where’s Ryan?” she asked.

Was it horrible that my husband and I had separated three weeks earlier, and I hadn’t said a word? He’d stood beside me during the funeral. I owed him for that and not much more.

“He’s working, Mom.”

“He works too hard.” She shifted her scrutiny to the piles on the bed and separated a rogue pullover from the stack of cardigans.

“You have no idea,” I muttered.

I flipped back to the inside cover of Dad’s book, where he’d written a single sentence beneath my name. I smiled, hearing the words in his voice, the words he’d spoken so often during my life.

In life, you either choose to sing a rainbow, or you don’t.

What other words had he left for me? I’d never know until I deciphered the puzzles inside the book.

Cryptograms. I smiled, the sight of the encoded letters warming the cold space that had taken up residence inside me the moment Dad died.

Once upon a time, before college and work and marriage and life, Dad and I spent each morning at the kitchen table, racing to see who could crack the daily cryptogram first. He’d usually won, a master at analyzing letter patterns and knowing just where to start. There’d been a time, though, when I’d gotten almost as fast. Almost.

Mom tucked the ribbed top of one sock into another, neatly organizing gold toes for whatever stranger might sink his feet into the space where Dad’s had once been. Her chin dipped slightly as she feigned complete absorption in her task. “I’m sure your father thought he’d have more time.”

I blinked but said nothing, not trusting my voice.

What I wouldn’t give to share one more morning with my dad.

My mother shook her head slightly. “I didn’t even know he had that little book.”

But I knew. I’d asked him to write down the stories he’d spun for as long as I could remember. The jokes. The adventures. The legends.

I’d always known this day would come. The day when he’d be gone. I just never expected it to come so soon. So abruptly.

I’d asked for his words so that I’d never forget.

Instead, he’d given me cryptograms.

I clutched the book to my chest just the same, watching as my mother pushed away from the bed, headed toward the hall.

“I’ll make some sandwiches,” she said.

“Could I keep one of Dad’s shirts?” My voice cracked.

My mother nodded, her features going soft. “I kept two of his flannels.”

I sat on the edge of the bed after she’d gone, cradling the