Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Lost Pearl

Pearl It is 1995.

My father and I are outside the hardware store in Idyllwild, a small mountain community in Southern California. He’s sitting in the passenger seat of the truck and I’m standing next to it.

A car pulls in. Sarah Clayton gets out.

One of the good things about living in a small town are the people. Sarah and her husband, Chuck, are the best of the best.

When my father started having problems walking, they came over with a truck full of lumber and built a bridge from the porch to the street to make it easier for my father to get in and out of the house.

I can tell right away she is in distress. She walks over and I ask her if she’s okay. She holds out her left hand. On her ring finger is her engagement ring and wedding band, and another gold band with a stem of metal sticking out.

She has lost the pearl on a ring of great sentimental value. She is retracing her steps from her travels around town this morning. She knows she had it when she left home. We offer our sympathy and wish her good luck. She enters the hardware store.

I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I can’t keep deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning straight, but I am generally good at finding things.

I want to find her pearl. Very badly. My brain starts firing.

“You know, that cement they use doesn’t just stop working.”

My father agrees with me.

“So the pearl didn’t just ‘fall off’.”

Again, my father agrees with me.

“I’m thinking she hit it on something. I’m thinking that was most likely in a confined space.”

I’m thinking…

“If that’s correct, it’s most likely to have been a space confined on her left side.”

A picture flashes in my mind.

I look at Sarah’s car. I walk over and stick my head through the open window on the driver side door. I look down.

On the carpet between the seat and the door is the pearl.

I am happy to have found it for her. But the real reason I wanted to find it was my father is impressed.

I’m still eight-years-old inside.

Fathers and Sons

In the spring of 1977, when I was almost 18, I was watching television after school. A Public Service Announcement about breast cancer came on. I wasn’t really paying attention, until they went from advising women to examine their breasts to showing a woman examining her breast. Right there in our dining room was a boob on the tube. I’d never seen anything like this before (And, frankly haven’t since).Dad and I at Holly's

The woman used her index and middle fingers, gently working in a circular pattern outward. I couldn’t help it – I slipped my hand up under my T-shirt and began aping her movements. I was in hysterics.

Until I felt the lump.

It was just on the perimeter of what I quickly came to learn was the areola, the dark tissue surrounding the nipple. It was about the size of a pea and hard. I felt around both my breasts to see how they felt. Other than the lump, I felt nothing odd. But, there was a lump.

I showed it to my mother. She felt it. My father came home and they had a ‘conference’. A doctor’s appointment was made. I was old enough to drive, even had my own car by then, but my father insisted on going with me. We drove there in our mustard-colored Volvo.

The doctor had me remove my shirt and duplicated my examination, carefully drawing the location of the ‘mass’ on a drawing of a breast in my medical chart. He measured it and added the dimensions in millimeters. And then he faced us.

“I want to have the surgeon look at him right away. This might be nothing. But we should have it biopsied as soon as possible to make sure.”

He gave us the name of the surgeon and contact information. I never got the biopsy, but two weeks later the lump was completely gone. Apparently these types of masses can occur for a variety of reasons, one of which is consuming lots of caffeine.

I am very thankful that it wasn’t a tumor, let alone cancer. But I am equally thankful for the experience, because it showed me how much my father cared for me. We had, at times, a problematic relationship. Perhaps it was because we were so much alike – in temperament as much as appearance. He sometimes had a temper and I was a smart ass. But he was one of the things that made me smart.

What I recognize now is the amount of concern he had for me that day. And love. For that I am grateful.

Now, each morning and evening I walk out into my backyard and look up at the peak where his ashes are buried.

And I thank my father for everything he did for me.