Monday, August 3, 2009

"We Said Goodbye to our Dad Today ..."

They stood closetogether in the entry of Nilgiris at 6 o'clock on Saturday evening, the brother, the sister, her husband, their mother. For the first time that day, the TH was empty. As I brightly pointed out where they could sit, they didn't move: blank faces, frozen limbs.

Finally the sister spoke from just inside the doorway: "We said goodbye to our Dad today ..." and the picture came into focus and I recognized the tableau. "He's better off" "It's a relief" "It's for the best" "We've been expecting it"

And the dignified beautiful mother hugged me fiercely
And the kindly husband's smile toppled off his face
And the devoted sister squeezed my hand and said, "You know"
And the valiant brother blinked hard

But what about we who are left behind? I thought. "He was your Dad," I said aloud. And I led them to the table and brought them their food and kept their water glasses filled, just like any other Saturday evening.

Other regulars started to drift in, talking about their day, the football game, music, dessert, just like any other Saturday evening. Soon the place was full.

But nothing was the same. I wanted everyone in there to sense the unspoken grief in the room, to acknowledge the invisible gaping wound, like a ribcage being wrested open with two bare hands and the bloody heart being pulled out. I wanted them to see the joy of a soul being released who had been trapped in the casings of mortality juxtaposed with the quiet anguish of the mortals who loved him still fettered to the earth.

But after all, it was Saturday night at the TH.

Then the earth expressed the dissonance of the evening: The wind started to gather force, howling bitterly, folding around itself as it swept down the street where the TH is, the street where the mother lives. The wind scooped up chairs and shattered trees and tore up roofs as it searched for some hiding place for its pain. Dust clawing at eyes gave permission for tears. The sound of hearts ready to burst could be heard in the moaning of the chimney as the wind railed and rattled and uprooted and demolished.

And the customers rallied, one running after abducted chairs, another holding the door, someone tracking down the fallen "Open" sign, others shutting windows, people greeting each other and checking on each other and offering rides. People caring for each other. Everyone drew a little closer together for those moments; and for those moments the mother and brother and sister and husband were not quite so alone.

On Sunday evening I saw the brother's fire-engine red truck parked up the street. It had been there most of the day. Memories of the day after suffused me: the planning -- "arrangements", they call it -- the loss settling in uneasily like an immigrant, like the weight of the world. Word will have started to get out and there will be calls and casseroles and cards.

The day after is the day you want to be with all of those you love. But one of those you love isn't showing up. There is so much talking and time is of the essence and you have to make sure the church is free the obituary written the program designed the music selected the notice sent to the paper the flowers ordered relatives and friends called an outfit and pictures chosen to give to the funeral director the ministerial call please, you need to eat something how many rows for the family what about the refreshments after the service do you remember when he

And all you really want to do is crawl back into his lap and say, "Dad? What do you think?" and you want to grab his hand and say, "Father? I really need to know he's okay; please let me know he's okay ..."

And on Sunday, in the late watches of the day after, the heavens declared.

The lightning sliced the night in half and the sky split open and the thunder beat the drums slowly and triumphantly. Rain showered down from the skies, its warm needles ministering to the wounds of grief and pain and loss. The parched earth and the splintered trees and the broken flowers, casualties of the day before, dared to breathe again.

Finally, when the clouds had exhausted their supply and all was quiet, the smell of the newly washed earth returned to the sky like incense. And the blood-tinged, almost-full moon started to wend its way slowly from the horizon to the heavens, the attendant stars sprinkling light like rose petals in its wake.

1 comment:

  1. I sat crying as I read this, reliving the indescribable grief and pain that we both have been through. You have an amazing gift of writing, Karyn.


I love to hear from you! Please leave me a leaf to read ...