My family and I are taking turns at the weekends to go and stay with my father. Dad lives in a fairly isolated spot on the Coromandel of New Zealand. It’s been just over two months now since Ma died. As one of the younger and wiser members of the family said, “We don’t know how much longer Grandpa’s got; we want to spend time with him. He’s a pretty amazing guy.”
I’ve literally just walked in through the door, having returned from my visit with Dad. I realized that instead of putting my jacket away, I was carrying the jacket around with me as I unloaded the car, and unpacked my bags. I remembered that it was originally one of Dad’s old coats – Ma didn’t like it so she gave it to me, she liked snugly-fitting jackets on men, and this is made of thick corduroy, lined with quilting. It’s a sturdy all-weather coat. I love it. I’d taken it on the trip with me and worn it home, and was reluctant to put it in the closet. I realized I was a bit teary-eyed and was wondering if I’d ever see my father again.
Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape. ~Anonymous
Will that be the last time Dad regales me with his jokes? “Do not argue with an idiot. He’ll drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.”
And I was thinking of one particular moment…Dad had shown me a pamphlet from stonemasons, showing various shapes and styles of headstones, and we discussed the kind he’d chosen for Ma’s burial plot. We are going to have a family gathering and commemoration on the anniversary of her death, June 25, 2016, for the “unveiling” of the headstone.
I asked, “Have you planned what the dedication will say?”
Dad said, “No. It’ll only be written on half the stone of course, because I’ll be buried there, one day.” He looked down at the pamphlet and then away out of the window.
Normally, I can pride myself on figuring out something to say, even if it’s the wrong thing. But I just sat there this time, looking at him, helpless, unable to summon a single thought.
We had a lovely time together. We ate lunch in “his” cafe. We took a nice hearty walk around the top of the mountain behind his house. We ate together, played cards, and sat talking over many cups of tea and sweet things to eat.
And of course he has his little rituals. Dad likes to show me when he feeds the birds in his garden – a little ritual he does for the local wildlife every afternoon at three on the dot – for the waxeyes, gold finches, tui, blackbirds, sparrows and thrushes, he puts out (very carefully) sliced banana, apple, pear, grapes, halved mandarins, and a big spoonful of firm dripping fat.
The deafening chorus of the flocks as they started to gather in the trees before the feast suddenly went quiet the instant Dad appeared at the front door. They waited in respectful silence while Dad performed all the different steps. Not a peep. Once he was gone, the birds swooped in and cleaned every speck up in about ten minutes flat.
On my stay, Dad and I watched television. We sat side by side, companionably, comfortably occupied each doing our own thing for an hour or two here and there as well. He was doing his cryptic crossword. I was doing a pencil sketch, which would form the basis for a pen & ink illustration, to go in my book, upcoming release, ‘The Or’in of Tane Mahuta,’ and it was really nice.
I drove home thinking, will there be another time?
Will there be another chance to listen to his jokes, “The shinbone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room!”, or another chance to hear him count his blessings, “I am SO blessed to have all my family coming to see me,” another chance to play Cribbage and hear all his funny, little, old English sayings that get attributed to counting every hand: “Five’s alive,” “Eight’s in state,” etc, and the always funny, “One for his knob”?
Another chance to laugh at Dad’s cute protestations, with raised eyebrows, when I started to streak away from him on the peg board in Cribbage, “You’re not going to beat your poor old dad, are you?” he asked with hand clutched to his heart. Ha ha. I think we all got our funny bone in this family from Dad. He’s a fun guy to be around.
I’ve returned from a very pleasant time and yet I feel sad….
This has only started to happen since Ma died. I didn’t used to come home swamped in pathos and nostalgia. But now, I am. I’ve stared at the unflinching reality of my mother leaving her body. Now, I’m staring at my still hale and healthy, 83 year old independent father and I can’t help but be fully in touch with the impending reality that looms.
Ma was also 83.
So I hug my coat, and I write blog posts to my friends and online family. I will turn to my artwork, next, as a source of solace. Whew. I have set myself the challenge of finishing another pen & ink illustration for my book this afternoon, and then hopefully, I’ll get to write.
How do you deal with the challenges in life? Do you have a creative outlet?
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads in this neck of the woods, for tomorrow! You are loved!
Talk to you soon,
Yvette K. Carol
‘You have to accept whatever comes with the best you have to give.’ ~ Eleanor Roosevelt