Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Dad

This afternoon was rough. My husband has been working like a madman earning extra cash for birthdays and Christmas and we've been missing him terribly. We decided to stay home from church tonight to be together as a family and this news sent an already weepy Pippi into a tailspin. You know those moments, days, weeks when nothing you do or suggest is right? When everyone is hard to please and you wish you could just stick your nose in a book and tune it all out? That's where we've been this afternoon. And I so wanted this evening to be peaceful and cozy. In all fairness Pippi hasn't been the only weepy one around here this afternoon.

The more I tried to reason with her, "Pippi if you would just close your eyes for a few minutes you'd feel so much better," the more resistant she became. Until the two of us were feeding off of one another, fueling this angry beast that was growing black and ugly between us.

In stepped my dad. Sat on the couch. Listened for a while.

"Pippi come here for a minute," he said.

She walked over to him, grudgingly, almost certain she was about to receive a lecture about obedience and respect. He patted the cushion. She sat.

"Let's walk in the meadow for awhile," he said. Everything - her mood, her posture, her face - changed. The angst just seemed to melt away. The meadow, as my mom writes about here, is a world of their making, their Narnia where they push past the fur coats and tumble into a frosty forest teeming with the most fantastic creatures.

Twenty minutes later, Pippi put on her shoes and she and my dad went out to buy a bucket of fried chicken for supper. Now, Pippi and Tommy are playing with my husband's new phone taking pictures and chatting about batteries. Gone are the tears, the angst, the body rigid with tension. Hers and mine.

I've been thinking a lot about my dad here lately. He has cancer, has had a part of his body removed and is undergoing radiation and hormone therapy. Living with my parents, it is impossible to compartmentalize our lives, knowing of his battles but unable - or unwilling - to live through them with him. At two am, I hear him pacing the floor, watching TV because he can't sleep. I watch him leave the house each day ten minutes to eleven for his radiation appointment. I see the bills for the oncologist and the radiation department and the surgeon and this and that - all meaning cancer - littering the desk. And I am constantly reminded of his mortality.

And I am thankful. Thankful for the meadow. And fried chicken. Gardens. Tree swings. The Bible. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. His slanted all caps script. Tie draped over the back of the chair. Socks and shoes under the desk. False teeth in the Campbell's Soup dish. Baseball. Tabasco sauce. The great big cooking pot. Roller coasters. Butterfly kisses. Blow dryers. And long blond hair. And a cat named Dallas. Small churches. Tinsel. Colored Christmas tree lights. Star Trek. Marty and Doc. George and Mary and Zuzu's petals.

And a thousand more things that evoke my father's presence. It is a strange thing to be haunted by a person's absence when that person is still present. Objects and movies and images become loaded with memories. And watching moments play out, knowing that years later when the person is gone, this moment will live on. I don't think of myself as being morbid, thinking always of death, but as someone who is savoring the now, letting the moment sear itself into my mind with all the colors, smells, and flavors of life.

So, do me a favor. Hug your dad. Your mom. Your kids. Take a walk. Push through the wardrobe. Watch. Listen. Taste. Savor.

Because, in a twinkling, this may all be


and all that remains

is memory.

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