Posted by: HAT | May 19, 2014

May Light Perpetual Shine On Them

A picture of a tree next to a gray stone wall typical of the bluegrass region of Kentucky

Something like what a person would see every day in Kentucky

Hey, Gang,

My father may be dying. Not the kind of dying that everyone is doing every minute because after all, we are all mortal and “in the midst of life we are in death.” Not the kind of dying that is now for some reason even more clearly going to be on the agenda at some indeterminate but still fairly remote future. No, may be dying, literally, within the next few days.

May be dying, because he may still be getting better, still be going to get better, still be on the road to being discharged from the hospital and being able to go “home” in some fashion. Not the same fashion that he has been used to for the past decade since my mother died, literally, but some fashion. Recovery is still possible.

I am not crazy or just in denial. It is still really possible.

But not the kind of possible where that is the only outcome realistically necessary to consider, because it is by far the most likely one. I am not crazy, and I am trying not to be in denial. The chaplains have been coming to see me. I’m sure they have their reasons.

I am staying at Dad’s house for a few days, so I can drive back and forth from there to the hospital instead of back and forth from my house, which takes even longer. Yesterday afternoon, while driving, I remembered something.

A long time ago, maybe almost fifty years now, Dad took me to see the El Monte High School production of Our Town. That’s less random than it sounds, since he taught for the El Monte Union High School District, and he was good about buying tickets from his students. I don’t think it was the first stage play I ever saw, but it was one of the first, and I was entranced. I thought the leading woman was brilliant and beautiful – her name was Michal, I remember – and that the Stage Manager was wise and deep, and I wanted to grow up to be a saint or a poet and live, really live, every minute.

So much for youthful ambition. So far, I think I do well to live, really live, a minute or two in a day. I have not done any better, after all, at noticing that the people around me are who they are, and are alive now, as they won’t be forever, whether on their birthdays or any other day. I haven’t really gotten a lot better at that, despite having had plenty of reminders in the intervening decades that from time to time people I love, or even just like and care about, do literally die.

Friday was my birthday. I took Dad to get blood drawn. We drove down 75 South and he said “What a beautiful day this turned out to be.”

Dad loves Northern Kentucky. If he had to leave here, he would miss it. I could see it today, as clearly as the sun and the late spring green trees. I could see it especially clearly because of having spent the day in the icu looking out a window onto a rooftop the color of putty smudged with newsprint, and into the wall on the other side, so the brilliance of the landscape was particularly breathtaking by contrast, and a little surprising, as if I had already forgotten it was spring.

It wouldn’t matter that he would be better cared for. He would miss it anyway.

In Our Town people sing “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” at some point in every act.

From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.

V’imru amein.


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