There is no easy way.
Let me just start there. I found sort of a deliciousness in the health of my parents – like it made me invincible or something. I could brag: “My mom is 80 and my dad is 86, and they are totally healthy!”, ” My dad backpacked 100 miles – for his 80th birthday!”, “My dad only takes a half aspirin a day! That’s IT!”
My dad was 86. He was a robust, healthy, happy, smart, energetic, amazing 86. And then he wasn’t. He was at a party, he didn’t feel well, he fell over, and he died 2 hours later, with my mom and my sisters and brother by his side. Just like that. My hero, object of my total adoration, is gone.
Since then I’ve been busy. Busy with the business of death, busy helping my mom negotiate a very tricky road. Just busy. A few days after he died, I woke early in the morning – around 4. I lay there, with the quiet, with my thoughts. Tears streaming down my face as I stared out the window. As the sky started to lighten, I was amazed that the sun came up. Like it does every day. I mean, didn’t it know? That every day before is not the same as every day after? It seemed like the sun was being sort of insensitive, if you must know. Just going about it’s business. La di da.
When I was a kid, I did everything my dad said. Never rode in the back of an open pick-up, never skied a hill that was too much, always looked over my left shoulder before changing lanes. Whenever I had a problem, he was the go-to guy. He knew a lot about a lot. And he was patient, and understanding, and really good at pointing out ideas that I may not have thought of. I remember at one point, I had a really big decision to make, and I specifically DIDN’T want to talk to him about it, because I knew that whichever way he leaned is the decision I would make. I was worried that I would make the decision to please him, and not myself. Yeah, he showed up at my door anyway, counseled me, and inevitably I did what he advised. Maybe it was the right decision, maybe not. But I’ll never know, and it doesn’t really matter anymore. I followed his lead.
In my childhood, there were many a family dinner when we would sit around and have an almost serious discussion about whether it was correct to sleep with wrinkled sheets or smooth, or whether food should touch on the plate, whether it was okay or weird to wear socks without shoes in the house… Should fuzzy peaches be peeled or not? Which is the best tomato – Brandywine or Early Girl? Does silverware need to line up parallel to the plate, or just be strewn about willy-nilly? We could determine the rightness or wrongness of just about anything. We had opinions. I guess to an outsider that would be weird entertainment, but it was pretty classic. How are we going to make fun of my dad for straightening out his silverware now?
I get that I’m fragile, and in shock, and grieving, and still in a state of disbelief. I get all that. But I still go to work. And hang out with Todd, and take care of the garden. I have plants that need watering, and weeds that need pulling, and wheat that is ready to harvest. So, the garden is pulling me back, slowly, to normalcy. To recognizing that rhythms go on. The sun didn’t come up to insult me. It’s just what the sun does. Bees still love lavender, and the neighbors still love to stop and admire.
… And the peaches are on. I can only imagine the debate that would ensue if I brought these to a family dinner. What would he say about these? “You can’t eat those! They are FURRY! It would be like eating a porcupine!” He would insist on peeling them first - I can pretty much guarantee it. But I love peaches. Any kind: freestone or cling, smooth or fuzzy, white or yellow – doesn’t matter. So, as I pick these Elbertas, wash them, and stand over the sink to take a bite, I know the fuzz will tickle my tongue. I have to smile a bit, as I picture my dad’s face, sort of puckering up, shaking his head, and saying “You’re not doing it right! You’ve gotta PEEL it first!”
And while I will never, ever, ever ride in the back of a pick-up, (or sleep with wrinkled sheets), when it comes to peaches, I guess it’s time I find my own way.