My father comes up in my thoughts often and randomly. Honestly, I don’t know why I think of him sometimes. It seems to be something I am seeing or doing that triggers a feeling that is attached to him. I’m glad he is still part of my life. He died in 2012. (My mother survived him by a year.) I think of them very differently and, strangely, rarely together. Why is that? They were together until the last year of my mother’s life, and I think they loved each other all their lives together, albeit toward the last few years when my father was struggling with ataxia and my mother with Alzheimers, their love sank deep, out of sight, into the bottom like a stone. But it was always there. I remember when my father, in his hospital bed, asked my mother point-blank if she loved him, and it was a risky question, because she had slipped so far into her illness that she didn’t recognize him most of the time, but occasionally referred to him as “that old man” . But then, he held her hand and I imagine that she recognized his touch, and she said “Yes”. I loved both my parents, but my love for them was different, and I think my love, like theirs for each other, also went deep, seeking the bottom, like a stone, but it was there in a very real and lasting way, right through the end. It’s Spring now. New life, the return of light. Yay. It’s been a long wait. It always is, don’t ya’ know. Here is a poem about my father:
(Footnote: Yggdrasil in line 16, is the name of the world tree in Norse mythology, whose roots hold the universe together.)
The Granby Oak
About a year before my father died
I took him to visit
The 500 year old oak in Granby.
I thought he would find some inspiration,
Beneath this tree,
Some kind of affirmation
For his own longevity,
Still holding his own
In spite of the ravages of ataxia,
And years of losing his wife,
My mother, to Alzheimers.
This great tree doesn’t impress from a distance,
In fact it played invisible.
It’s right by the road.
Yet I drove right past it
Looking for Yggdrasil.
But once I got close
I knew I was
With an ancient presence.
It’s lowest branches, each the girth of a tree,
Bend gracefully to ground,
Resting like the necks of Brontosauri
Before rising up and reaching out
Another 50, 60 feet.
My father was quiet,
The whole time we lingered
At the foot of this tree.
Afterwards we ate at a little Mexican restaurant
Where we toasted the oak,
Clinking our glasses of Burgundy.
The next time we paid the oak a visit
It was a few months before he died.
A violent storm had recently ravaged it.
It looked a little like a square-rigger
With snapped masts and drooping sails.
It could survive half a millennium in tact
But was no match for the climate of 2012.
This time he stayed in the car.
I don’t believe he was thinking about the tree.
I believe he was just feeling tired
And maybe a little beaten up
By the storms of life.
Still, he rallied for Mexican.
He always loved Mexican food,
And his glass of Burgundy
At the end of the day.