Sunday, August 28, 2011

so it goes - august 2011.

the day my father died the weather turned. it had been so hot and humid and suddenly with dawn came overcast skies. a blessed breeze.

i had spent the whole night curled up on the couch with my phone to my ear, the phone in my father's room on his pillow, just listening to him breathe 3200 miles away. it reminded me of being young and we'd be at someone's house, a gathering going too long and i would get sleepy. and i would curl up in his lap and put my cheek against his chest, let the rumble of his talking put me to sleep. he was always talking talking talking.

that night i settled for breathing. trying not to count how long the periods in between breaths were extending. watching the candle on the mantle burn down. matching my breath to his.

by morning he had pulled out of his coma briefly to say goodbye, to say he loved us, i love you, too dad, i said into the phone.

my sisters were sobbing and that was absolutely heartbreaking to listen to. to know i wasn't there to comfort them, to hear brokenness and grief and despair and not be able to help. had i been able to be by their side i would have given anything. my father and i were set, we were solid, and i knew my one trip out in early summer was the only trip i'd be able to afford to take. he and i made the most of our time. but to not be able to be there to hold my sisters up, to grieve with them. well, so it goes. and that hurts the most.

and then, later in the day, he was gone. just like that. as these things happen.

my father told me to always look someone in the eye when you shake their hand. and to do it firmly, the shake. and the look. he taught me to never sit with your back to the door. he taught me how to properly knife someone and gave me a switchblade. he taught me to shoot a gun. he taught me how to pack everything i would need to survive on my back and told me, you carry your own load. always.

i would have made a good cowboy.

he also taught me that every night is the night to sit at the table with your family for dinner. no matter what. and with all the whats in our house we still sat down. he taught me about loving someone, even when it'
s difficult. especially when it's difficult. and about forgiveness. that we are, all of us, martyrs and saints, devils and angels, we are good and bad, and sometimes we are definitely ugly. but that in the end the beautiful moments win, if you let them. 

but you have to let them. you have to fight for it.  he taught me that.

i think about this year. what i've lost. and adding it all up what does it mean. i think about the book i can finally write, about difficult childhoods and how they stay with us. my difficult childhood. the load i will always carry myself. how strength comes from the most unlikely places. a story to be told and not hurt anyone's feelings. finally.

in the meantime.

so. now what? i ask myself.

now what? i'm 40 and living 3000 miles from home. in boston. on foreign enough soil literally and figuratively for this to be...something. but what. what now.  what do i do. now.

and then i hear it

bloom where you're planted. be here now. start where you are.

my father would never utter any of those words, not in a million years. NOT IN A MILLION FUCKING YEARS.  nobody actually says those words and certainly not my father.  but the sentiment stands. and i heard it.

cowboys don't stay lying bleeding in the dirt for long.

so i took the whiskey from the kitchen counter and put it in the liquor cabinet. i grabbed the glass and finally washed it. i got dressed. i left the house. i cleaned up the stack of newspapers. i stacked the scattered books.

and that's when i found it. the post card i bought while staying with the goddess mother on cape cod last weekend. i bought it for my father. i specifically picked one that had glitter on the edges. with his failing eyesight i thought he would appreciate a little sparkle, the feel of the rough texture of the glitter on his fingers.

even as i bought it i knew somehow i would never send it. he was declining rapidly last weekend, there wouldn't be time for a post card to arrive in time. he would have liked it. he would have loved cape cod.

bloom where you're planted. be here now. start where you are.

i went into my office and got a pen.

dear dad,

it is really pretty on cape cod. i think you would love it. i miss you.

love, x.

with nowhere to send it, i left the address blank. i got a stamp and grabbed my keys.

i walked to the post office down the hill, chose the blue box at the end, opened it up, and popped the post card inside. the one for my dad. who died.  the one with no address to send it to. i stood there for minute, just holding onto the handle. gripping and unable to let go. thinking about what the man at the place who would eventually turn my father to ashes said about death making people crazy. and then something i read recently flitted through my brain;

To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your life depends on it; and when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

my grip tightened on the handle. shit. now what?

bloom where you're planted. be here now. start where you are.

the tears started. i let the handle go. and headed back up the hill towards home.