in the week before i flew to seattle to see my dad i found a lucky penny nearly every single day. not every day, but in a week i collected 5. parking lots, sidewalks, the gutter. i picked them up and made a singular wish. the same one i always make on dandelions and shooting stars and rocks tossed into the sea. of course lately that wish has a bit of a flourish at the end.
when i got to seattle and would bring coffee and meds down to my father in the morning (while he was still at my sister's house) i kid you not somewhere in the two rooms he was in i would find a penny. just there. on the ground. every.single.time.
i am thinking about the pennies as i rub my father's back in the VA. he's in his favorite position, a kind of doubled over yoga pose. he has a theory about this position. i know this because he lectured to me for nearly 20 minutes this morning on his theory.
and i didn't mind, i just listened. happy that he can do this again, have theories and give lectures as his pain has finally somewhat been managed, he is somewhat comfortable, he has color, he has humor. my father is my father again, and i just bask in it moment by moment.
he has lost so much weight that it doesn't take much movement to cover his back. up and back, a scratch here and there. but he is still strong, i feel that. and whether that's strength of muscle or spirit it's hard to say. and really doesn't matter.
he looks good now. the big windows with the million dollar view don't hurt. but it's mostly the fact that by dosing him up with a metric assload of morphine and adding in cocktails of various other white pills he is able to relax a bit. to get some sleep. he reported that he even dreamed the night before. eating still isn't high on the activity list, but he does what he can. and you take what you can get.
my father looks like a man one might find sitting cross legged at the edge of the ganges. holding court. dispensing wisdom and experience to all who ask and all who don't. doctors, nurses, techs, social workers, the former historian and now custodian who comes to sweep the floor. my father looks like the guru he has become. the guru of the VA. he looks like gary snyder.
'dad, you look like gary snyder.'
'oh? well. i'll take that as a compliment.'
i am rubbing his back and thinking about how odd it is that we are so present and relaxed. my father and i. how our journey has been rocky at best at times, and yet was also marked by the sheer wonder and beauty that is the parent child relationship. and it's not lost on me that for the first time in my life i am physically stronger than my father. that even in my curvy softness i could take him. and somewhere deep and ancient and inside the eight year old silly mortal is shouting YES! and throwing a fist up in the air.
but none of that really matters. at all. not now. as it turns out, the balance of a life is just that...a balance. that in the end, any one period of time doesn't take precedence over another. the mistrusts and missteps are just that and no more. the cataloging is done.
i understand also that what this is, me in this hospital rubbing my father's back , that what this is is me being given a gift. that this is grace here on earth. and just like those pennies i am so very lucky. to have made the journey and been able to rest at the end of it with my father.
my wise friend ingrid always likes to say 'only love prevails.' i understand that in a way i only theoretically did before. i understand that in a way that cannot be explained or ignored. i understand. and as i rub my father's back i close my eyes and lift my face upwards in thanksgiving.
we are, all of us, martyrs and saints, devils and angels, we are good and bad, and sometimes we are definitely ugly. there are moments as divine as can be, and low moments that level and break us. rendering us knee bound and groveling. we are pain and heartbreak and love and light. and all of this is so and necessary, because in the end there is a balance. no tally, no score. just balance. in the end it all makes sense. it really really does.
i don't know much about heaven. so i don't know if those pennies were from heaven as they like to say. i do know that they are a tangible sign of what is always around us. the abundance and the good. the richness of life. we just have to be willing to do a little bending to grab it.