03 February 2009

Awaiting the Final Chapter

In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight....
Not people die but worlds die in them.
~Yevgeny Yevtushenko

The scent of damp hay caresses me, its touch pulling memories out of the hope chest of my soul. As I breathe in the familiar and comforting smells of the country, my steps slow as I wonder for the millionth time if this is it. Is this goodbye?

It is not. It is only a pulled muscle or a sprained foot. But when one's father is in his mid-eighties, the shadow of the Reaper seems to grow a little longer each year and every physical and medical issue that arises is feared to be the final one. When the phone rings, I am sure that this will be call I do not want to get. I dream of wakes and Requiem Masses and what I will wear. I resolve to fight the local parish priest if I have to and get my way when it comes to liturgical music. I do everything I can to avoid really thinking about it. God forgive me ~ I have even changed the subject or only nodded noncommittally when my father tries to bring it up.

When I was a child, my father was the strongest, tallest, most talented and loving man in the world. The child in me is frightened to see him grow weaker and weaker ~ almost with every visit and see him shrink to almost nothing. This is nothing new, I know. Everyone dies. But, oh! the holes that are left when they leave!

I am quite aware of the proverb that says one cannot add one hour to one's life by worrying. And I am past mistress of the art of "what ifs" and worst case scenarios. It is a fault I struggle to overcome on a daily basis. But when it comes to dealing with this reality, I am wont to face it. I childishly cling to the belief that we will all live forever here on earth.

My father is indeed a very talented man. He speaks eight languages fluently, although some words escape him now from disuse. He is an adept artist, drawing the most life-like faces. A master storyteller, he would regal my sisters and I with stories from the Old Country. He still has an incredible green thumb. I honestly do not know how his tomatoes always grow three times the size and sweetness of everyone else's! Quick at math and all things engineering, he worked on electron microscopes for years and always brought home fascinating pictures of fly eyes and spiders. For awhile, we had an old one in our garage that he used for spare parts.

Still, my father is a mystery, a book which has chapters never read by anyone but God. And perhaps that is my fear. That once the book is shut forever, there is no way of finding out the story until we are together again ~ hopefully in Heaven. Yet, surely this is true for many people. No one knows us fully, not really. At times we hardly know ourselves!

Knowledge is at the heart of love. When you love someone, you want to know all about them. You wonder what it would have been like to have met them when they were children; when you do learn something of their past, especially if it is painful in any way, you wish you could go back and be there for them or even prevent the painful episode from occurring.

But more often than not, those painful episodes close doors that can only be opened from the inside. And who am I to say that my father, or I, or anyone else for that matter, has an obligation to unlock those doors. Certainly if someone chooses to open up, it is a great honor and one not to be taken lightly. But if it never happens, I suppose one must be content with the story as it is told on the outside.

And his is still being written.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
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