pondering existence and all we grasp to assure us of the meaningfulness of a life, my phone rang. it’s true. i was exhausted. had finished my morning round of work, resting before the next wave, feeling the frustration of loss the past month had become and realizing how many times i’ve had to remind myself that measuring my worth solely by some evidence of obvious success is a nowhere game. so, i was pondering, sensing, feeling the pull of the very fact of existence itself and all the possibility held in one life. in mine. in my children. sighing. hoping.
my phone rang.
the father of my children in the middle of the day. this can’t be good. “hey, what’s up?” i answer. “my dad died this morning.”
his dad. 80+++ years. i’d known him from the age of 3. of all there is to know of him, the thing that remained was his capacity to accept and love people in the moment, to so seldom speak harshly to anyone that i cannot recall ever witnessing such. a rare individual who often bubbled up a little dance i took to calling the barney dance back when i was sure he couldn’t cut loose, convinced it was a major dysfunction, picking over all that i thought contributed to all that is wrong in a religion. so little i knew for all my knowing…
now i just want to see that dance again.
this is what life does to us, if we open our hearts. it cuts away all that we judge to be flawed, all the measuring sticks we cling to for proof of value. it teaches us that some blossoms come and go fast, never to return again ’til the next season of blooming. others bloom at the most unlikely times and then turn around and bloom again. and again.
this was true of a man i think of as my other dad. (not just because i married into the family. but because he exuded nurturing concern. and he radiated a nourishing color of love unique to his own expression of life. he called me ruthie. and he said it with such love and pleasure. he oftentimes prayed over me throughout my childhood, here and there when life had ripped at my confidence. he was so sure of my value. so full of confidence.) he kept blooming. one more expression. and another. and a new one there. and he encouraged the same in whomever bothered to open up to him.
i got off the phone after spilling involuntary anguish and concern, then the dam broke. and broke.
and broke. and i went to the school to pick up my sons with my daughter by my side, urging me to not reveal anything until we were outside the school, knowing i was barely holding it in.
we made it out into the sunlight before they had had enough of being deflected. then we all just stood there in a huddle, hugging, a tribute to a man who made it possible for me to know love by way of knowing his son and bringing three amazing children into this world. divorce doesn’t change that gratitude or diminish the meaning, the purpose of our knowing each other. it reminds us that there are limitations. we are not super-human, able to fix all problems. but we can do the best with what we have to care for, to cherish.
we drove up to my house and found him waiting in his car. wanting to see his children. and another huddle in sunlight. all of us.
there’s no preparation for death, not truly. we are so busy with our blooming. in all my awareness of existence and the fleetingness of life, i wasn’t even slightly prepared to hear this cherished father had gone on to the next expression, beyond our sight or ability to witness his adventure.
up to the last, he held out in love. only until his wife of many decades spoke the words “I release him…” did he actually let go and fade. within minutes, he was beyond our grasp. but our lives unfold and blossom in ways uniquely influenced by his presence. he lives on. and we gather our stories, grateful to include his best in our words, in our actions.
here’s to meaning we cannot fathom, achievement we can never measure and the love that holds us all together when those we cherish move on…