This new day

July 30th, 2011

By the time my father died, I knew that he was dying; several days – a week? – in a coma, a shunt draining fluid from his brain had convinced even me. I think I still held out some stubborn hope, in the way of children – and to watch at twenty-one your father die is to be very much a child – but most of me was willing to accept what I was seeing.

I don’t remember the very last thing I said to my father, as I ended my visit to the hospital, because although I was willing to accept that he was dying I also suspected that he could linger like that for a long time yet and I suspected there would be more visits, more one-way conversations. It would not have been what my father wanted, lingering; my father the fisherman, my father the hockey coach, my father the man who belonged under Idaho skies if ever a man did. It would not have been what he wanted, lingering in between.

I don’t remember the very last words I said, as I was leaving, but I remember what I said to him on that visit. I told him that it would be okay. To die. It would be okay, if he wanted to, to just go ahead and stop fighting. I told him I would be okay, and that for once in his lifetime of putting his children first he should just think about himself and do what he wanted, only what he wanted. And if he wanted to keep on fighting, I would visit, and read him the newspaper, and clip his nails and it would be okay. And if he wanted to stop, to just stop and rest at last, that he should do that. It would be okay, and I would be okay, whatever he did. But he should do what he wanted and not think about anybody else.

In a lifetime of adoring my father, in that conversation I understood what it meant to truly love him. He died that night, as if he had been waiting for my permission.

I do not believe in the resurrection, so I do not believe that I will ever see my father again. I do not think, in the manner of Field of Dreams, that my father is going to appear in the river grass so that we might fish the Madison together just one more time. I know that I will never look up during a hockey game and see my father in the stands across from me, watching his grandson play the game he loved.

And yet he is always there on the far bank, always hovering in the corner behind the goal. Today I cross over to that strange new life in which the after is longer than the before. The days will stack up on top of each other like stones on a cairn taking me further and further away from my father and this can’t be helped. I’m in no hurry to die. This after is also my¬†now: my garden and my poems and my boys and the pink light of sunset on the Swiss Alps. Today. This new day.