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It is nearly one year since you left this world. I came to your grave, not a usual thing for me to do on Memorial Day, but I knew it would mean so much to you to have flowers put on your gravesite.
I chose some fresh flowers from my yard, such as they were, knowing it was the intention rather than their impressiveness. By the time I got myself out the front door, sunscreen on, and a big straw hat to protect my face, it was nearly noon.
When I said [my visit] would mean something to you, I’m sure part of it was projection on my part, looking in a mirror. Yes, this visit means something to me as well.
Our reconnecting after not communicating for–was it twenty years?–meant much to both of us. I give credit to Landmark Education for urging me to make that call to New Mexico. Although I lost touch, my sister Linda always knew where you and your next wife travelled. You were glad to hear my voice; amazingly, you recognized it after all those years. That call was more easy to make than my anxiety had led me to believe. Eventually I made a trip out West to visit. And it was good.
Then when your wife (after the long ago divorce from my mother) was ill and dying, you two returned to Ohio. You received support from your adult children. After her death, you and I began going out to eat together. It was what I called “your breakfast at lunchtime.” Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans, Big Boy–you had your favorite servers at each one. I bit back my vegetarian rigidity and loosened up a bit to enjoy a few hours with my father.
But that’s the past and you are no longer available for those breakfast sessions. Now I sit here in the hot sun with the noisy traffic on Colerain going shopping on the Memorial Day holiday. I sit on the edge of your plot; there is some grass now but it is obvious that the ground is fairly new. I was there when they lowered you in your coffin. Frankly, it still creeps me out, no matter how many times I see it. It seemed unreal–or perhaps I had to be numb to witness it at all.
It’s All About Me, anyway, this journaling, this blog, and my witnessing the end of a life. I know some day, some month, some year, I will face this, too. Not knowing how much time is left has been a huge zen koan for my life.
I sincerely hope my short visit has been some comfort to you–indeed, for us both.
I lost my mother in 2007. The anniversary of her birthday came and went in April. I usually write about her then but did not. Am I not a loving, dutiful daughter?
For one thing, I am getting “real” about my mother having passed. And, although she is not physically present anymore, I sometimes feel her presence, her spirit, if you will. The wind chimes I got her for her deck came back to me after her death. I hear them often; they are comforting as well as beautiful. My two sisters and I text, remembering our mother, as we try to be there for one another.
So this morning as I sat before my fireplace on this chilly Sunday, the theme for my reflection is evident. I sigh yet it is a sigh of acceptance. Perhaps her first-born has finally grown. For acceptance is the final stage of Kubler-Ross’s phases for grieving. One can accept reluctantly but not kicking and screaming in denial (for that would not be acceptance).
I lit incense to the goddess mothers in my living room. If I pause to look and listen, there really are mothers all around me.
This retiree had a few hours this morning before she snapped into action in the outside world. So I took my cup of coffee to the Goddess in my backyard.
Although I have researched, I have never found who She is. Janice and I bought her in Kentucky (of all places!) on our way home from Red River Gorge back in the ’90’s. Over the decades, she has shrunk–no, not osteoporosis but her body broke off from her base so she lost twelve inches. Short like me. And for a time it seemed that many of my goddess statues, mostly small ones, lost their heads. I took it as a clear sign to ‘get out of my head’ and not overthink so much.
So my Backyard Goddess lost her head in a move one time and got super-glued back together. One inspired time I added a glittery necklace and it now (mostly) hides the damage as it decorates.
I leave a plastic yard chair out there in front of Her and the circle of rocks. Symbolic. Not used often. But this morning, with the air crisp as autumn and this mortal rising earlier than usual, I sat in the chair.
In our brief time together, here were Her messages for me: “Well, hello there!”/”Better to drink green tea, my dear.”/”Shouldn’t you be writing?”/”Nice to see you again, even if briefly.”
Of course, She is right about all these as goddesses tend to be. But as I returned to the house and my schedule noted on my calendar, I remembered that I’m a goddess, too.
Sunday morning. New resolve. I can, will, and must begin a regular practice of meditation once more. Trust me.
So I set the timer to twenty minutes. Lit a candle, sat on the floor in front of it. I decided: no mantra, no severe zen stance (I’ve done them all). Instead a simple cross-legged position, back to the sofa, old dog lying nearby. Was Winnie meditating in her dog way?
Here are thoughts that arose as I sat for fifteen minutes: flame of the candle–nice, better if I close my eyes? Back to the flame. Airplane flies over my house–damned Green Township pathway! I’ll be flying soon–Paris, hurray! Oops, stop it, Phebe, let the thoughts float by like clouds in the sky…..
In between these concepts, I did have a few moments of No Thought. So when I peeked and the timer told me “three minutes more,” I was disappointed.
Yes, disappointed! For I was just getting started. “Getting started” — an odd concept since there was No Where To Get to in my meditation. I reset the timer for ten more minutes. Ahhhh.
That new Sia song insisted on wafting through my head. Notice, float by. Tears. Surprising. Oh, earlier I had remembered my father, recently dead (whatever this means). “Where are you, Dad?” I inwardly asked. Maybe this is one reason I’d been resisting sitting in meditation. Feeling. Feeling my father’s recent death. Feeling my recovering chest incision from February bypass surgery. But, wait–then I felt tears of joy: my new internist. She has knowledge and caring. Knowledge and Caring. What more can a patient ask for?
Back to the candle and its wavering flame. Wavering. Yes, kind of like the baby meditator I have become after not sitting quietly for some time. Beginner’s mind begins again. And there is nothing wrong with that.
It’s happy Father’s Day all over the U.S.A. but some of the children are not so happy.
I just lost my father last Wednesday, watched as his coffin was lowered into the ground. That makes it real! His body needed to leave since it was wracked by lymphoma, the cancer enlarging his spleen which pushed on his stomach which left him with little appetite. Going out to eat was his final pleasure in life. Going to Bob Evans, for example, was a social occasion for him and he quickly made favorites of the pretty young waitresses. I suppose they looked upon him as a grandfather or just a nice old man.
He was a nice old man. Not much of a talker, though. I sometimes wondered what our father-daughter karma was but now I think Norman Beiser was a steady listener for me. Thank you, dad, wherever you are!
Now I am a member of the Adult Orphan Society. I am 65, after all, and own a home on my own and mother furry animals rather than children. I am an adult who can sort through my thoughts and emotions, who writes about them, and shares communication with others.
One writing friend does not speak to her father because he was cruel to her in her childhood. I know another young father who is a baby daddy and has a kid by two different women, neither of whom he is married to. When I asked my own father about my early childhood, he remembered little. “I worked two jobs,” he informed me, back in the early and mid 1950’s. He also met another woman and, for this, my mother divorced him. They were too young to be married with three children. Thankfully, my mother’s retired German schoolteacher mother had saved her pennies and helped her out until she met and married my stepfather.
So fathers can vary, as do people of any age or sex. Responsibility is the word I think of when I think of a good father. In the normal realm, responsibility consists of earning money, making sure your children are fed, supporting your wife. My biological father did all of this until I was three. That was a very long time ago. I took my mother’s side for decades in my early feminist days. After I was involved in my own intimate relationships, I realized the actual truth was often something other than either partner’s view of the truth. So I forgive both my parents for the decisions they made along the way. For I am no better.
On this Hallmark day of sappy cards, grilling out, etc., I ask that we all pause, reflect a bit deeper, and really mean Happy Fathers Day when we say (write) it.