Friday, March 21, 2008
I keep a boundary around my personal life on this blog, but I felt I needed to write something about my father's death. It is just the strangest sensation, on the day you get the word. Many know what I mean, others will someday. You can't practice for it, as one person said. Thank you for the many kind thoughts already.
In the predawn morning when my father died, it was not raining but the branch of the Doug Fir outside the bedroom window was blowing. I ate yogurt for breakfast just like the day before when he was still alive.
On the morning my father died, I went to the barn like I always do, first stopping to let the chickens out for their daily free range. I fed Boone and brushed him, taking time to rub his underbelly since he's shedding and he likes it. I watchede the mother ewes and looked over the new lambs while they ate.
"I must name them soon," I think to myself.
For that one moment I forgot what day it was.
I drive to the feed store for supplies. It began to rain at 2:01pm Oregon time. Everything becomes significant on the day your father dies. I see old men everywhere, with canes. One is buying birdseed. Old men are like old trees - they die one limb at a time. I had that thought in my head for a year now, wanting to paint it, but never did.
My father was not a religous man, nor am I preferring to look to Nature and Higher Power as one huge university with health and wellness seminars.I'm a leaf, only with a different anatomy and make-up, and will someday crumble to the worms.
Picking up the phone that morning, I heard the voice say,
Not, "He's dead," but, "It's happened."
"It". That's a huge "it".
Later in the morning, I asked out loud,
"Where are you? What are you doing right now?"
My crumbling leaf analogy didn't really help as I ran into the impact of this day. Please, do not write and tell me you know where he is. It's really his business now. It would be nice if someone told me, "He felt the need to get away and went on a road trip east." If he had just gone on a road trip, I wouldn't need to know what states he went to, I could fathom he was still on earth, grounded by body. Wearing clothes. Dog at his side. Camera in the back seat. But just a crumbled leaf with the worms, I just could grasp it - on the day he died.
I noticed how sensitive I was to the wind that day. I think there might be this one terrifying moment before death, where I'll struggle to stay on Earth, "Please, I can't leave you behind, Wind!"
All day long, movies played in my mind - of former holidays as a family, pleasant lunches, little moments that are stuffed over a lifetime in a memory book, old houses we remodeled, that night we drank 100 year old Armanac in Zurich as father and daughter and smoked cigars. You remember the oddest things too, like standing in line at the old Mann Theater in St. Paul when I was about 7 waiting to see "Sound of Music". And the night he came into my room and made me a deal when I was 8 years old - instead of me buying tickets to the Monkee's concert, which he would have to chaperone me on, he offered to buy me all three of their albums. I pondered, and recognized the albums would last longer than a concert and agreed. I now smile at his probable relief.
On the day my father died, he was 84 years old and safe in his home with his wife of 53 years and his little dog nearby. He was surrounded by items he could still recognize as important to him. And I was on my farm, sleeping next to my husband, surrounded by fields and animals and things important to me - ike the worms and the wind.