February 16, 2017 § Leave a comment
A stand of pale trees greets me as I leave the house this morning, their bare branches a radiant white, a bright sun rising before them and a threatening sky lurking behind.
Glowing ghosts of trees, trapped between the light and the dark.
It is a day of ghosts and shadows and grim skies. Of those lost, long ago and far too recently. Of grief held too close, and mistakes made, and lessons (hopefully) learned. Of advancing years, and a half-century gone in a blink.
A dark day, a threatening sky. And yet, light.
It’s millions of miles distant, across a cold black void. Still, the sun finds the faces of the trees, and they glow in defiance of the dark sky, and they are more beautiful because of it.
I step out of the shadow and turn, and the sun finds my face.
February 13, 2017 § Leave a comment
I moved to a new cubicle at work recently, overlooking the side lawn of the building and a stand of trees in which hawks and small birds like to sit. Several of the trees stand like massive lodge poles; bare of branches for the most part, and dead.
The hawks prefer the tops of the dead trees. They sit in the sun there, sometimes two or three atop the same tall spire of gray wood. Then swoop out in a great spread of wings to soar, or circle, or seize some small creature in their deadly talons. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 6, 2017 § Leave a comment
The Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the day is “ice worms.” (Which is two words, so technically “term of the day” would be more appropriate, but who am I to argue with the august institution that is the OED?)
ice worm, n. – OED Word of the Day: ice worm, n. An imaginary creature which flourishes in icy conditions https://t.co/IRhWx0dkDw
— The OED (@OED) February 6, 2017
January 14, 2017 § 1 Comment
NOTE: This is the eulogy I delivered for my father’s funeral, hence the references to slideshows and sanctuaries and such. I’m posting this for those of you who knew Dad and couldn’t make it to the memorial, and also just to plant this in the Internet’s eternal memory.
To capture my dad’s 90 years of life in a few hundred words is to cram Everest into a walnut shell. It’s an exercise in futility to try to tell you everything Dad was and everything he meant to us.
So I’ll give you a sampling, with the hope that you know he was so much more than this thin tribute can contain. « Read the rest of this entry »
January 5, 2017 § 1 Comment
I woke to falling snow, an immediate indicator of how the day would shape out; in Asia, white is the color of mourning.
The plague I have is on its way out the door, but I’m still coughing, sneezing, congested at times. Still worried about getting my dad, my mom, my family sick. So I went to work, distracted myself with little tasks I needed to catch up on, office gossip, the friends I work with.
Greg updated me around 10:00 that Dad was unresponsive—sleeping, not waking for anyone. My heart fell through the floor.
The snow tapered, but never stopped. At one point, fat white flakes fell, seeming to mark off the moments. I watched them, wondering as each one hit the ground if that was the moment my father died.
At 3:00, I left for the day and met Tracy at home. She drove us over worsening, whitening roads to the hospice. I stopped inside the door to blow my nose hard, cough out what I could into tissues, and mask up. I couldn’t get the mask on with everything in my hands, so I threw it all at a chair in the waiting room—used tissues, clean tissues, earmuffs. Frustrated. Scared.
As we approached Dad’s room, Greg stepped out. Visibly shaken. Steve followed, eyes red and brimming.
My dad had just passed away, minutes before we got to his side.
I went into the room, placed my hand on his shoulder. Mom sat across from me, sobbing. I moved around the bed and hugged her. Began crying myself, then couldn’t stop. My eyes burned with acidic tears. Later, I’d find milky spatter on the lenses of my glasses.
I stopped crying. Started again. Stopped. A nurse came, listened to his chest, then called the charge nurse. She came a few minutes later, also listened, and pronounced it. The official time of death was 4:12; in reality, it was several minutes prior.
The world didn’t halt; it carried on, stepping over the pieces of our hearts on the floor. Indifferent. We drew together, an island of familial grief, then broke apart to drift our separate ways.
Outside, the snow continued to cast its funeral shroud across the landscape.
My dad, Christmas 2016.
January 2, 2017 § 1 Comment
Greetings from Plagueville. Happy *cough* New Year.
It’s impossible to tell what kind of year 2017 is going to be, although given the way the election went, it’s not looking good.
2016 was a year of upheaval. The ground beneath me shifted and shook and crumbled, at times. Some quakes revealed gold beneath the cracked earth; others, sinkholes of unknown depths.
I’m still feeling the aftershocks of the previous year, and haven’t felt steady enough to take a measure of the next 12 months.
Starting the year in an urgent care clinic hasn’t exactly filled me with optimism. The nasty upper respiratory infection that’s been going around lately struck me down in the dying light of the year. I swear, half my friends are sick with it or something similar; one is so ill, he bruised his ribs from coughing so violently.
It is the worst time for me to get sick. I’ve not shared an update on my dad recently, but he’s dying. That’s the long and the short of it. He couldn’t handle chemo—which, ironically, shrank the tumors—and the subsequent radiation treatments hit him even worse. He’s declining rapidly, and being cared for at home by hospice and my family. But he survived 2016, when so many did not. That’s not nothing.
Being ill means I can’t go visit him nor help out in caring for him. I’m a dull blade or a broken crowbar rusting in the corner; useless. My only role is to host the plague and try not to spread it to others.
For weeks, I cried every time I talked about or thought about my dad. Last week, I stopped crying and haven’t since. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Something may have broken.
There are other aftershocks from 2016. I’ll be losing good friends at work due to layoffs. My own duties will be changing. I’ll be moving my desk to the second floor, which may seem insignificant to anyone who isn’t a writer; we have rituals, and most of mine are based on location. It’ll take time to adjust to the tenor and frequency of the new space.
The company climate as a whole is changing; it was bought out by another firm, and we’re rapidly being switched over to new tools and processes. New names and faces to learn. So far, it’s been positive (except for the layoffs, of course); I hope that continues.
All ripples in the landscape; waves that started months ago and are spending their last kinetic energy on 2017’s new shore. But the tsunami is my dad.
I wish I could be completely optimistic for the new year. It’s off to a rough start, though, so I suspect it’ll be a monstrous bastard of a year.
Prove me wrong, 2017. Please, prove me wrong.
December 22, 2016 § Leave a comment
Rushing through the morning tasks that all need to be done before I’m out the door to work, I caught a glance of pink out the window. The sunrise had turned the high, striated clouds into bright cotton candy. I stepped outside, snapped a photo with my phone, and posted it to Facebook with a title stolen from Hemingway. (It’s okay; he stole it from the Bible.)
A moment later, the hidden sun transmuted the cotton candy to spun gold. I took another photo, but my phone captured it more as a flank of salmon.
I seem to be hung up on sunrises lately. The rising sun heralds a brand new day, full of undiscovered promise. At the moment when our very own star crests the horizon, the day has yet to decide what it will become.
Yesterday may have been tragic, or dark, or painful. The new day doesn’t care; like a rebellious teen, it’ll do what it wants.
Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in celebration of his generation’s strength. They’d suffered through World War I and all of its horrors, and they’d survived. They drowned the nightmares of that war in fine Parisian wine and rich food and raucous celebration. They outlasted the dark days, and the sun rose again for them.
The sun sets. The long, cold night swallows you, lies to you, tells you it has eaten the light and all hope with it. Tells you this darkness will be endless.
But the sun also rises. It rose for ancient Kohelet, for Hemingway, and for all who came before and after. It rose today. It will rise tomorrow. Sometimes the clouds thicken to hide it, but it rises nonetheless.
The sun also rises. The darkness always ends.