Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Roof Above My Head

"It's winter on the island;
My heart is cold as stone;
Like a house deserted,
I'm roofless and alone..."
                                    From "Waking Ned Divine"*

No one does death quite like the Celts.  No other song quite describes the way I feel.  "Roofless" has a special meaning to me.  My father made his fortune in roofs. 

Not putting them on, mind you, but in inspecting them, in maintaining them and in helping people who didn't understand the value of their investment in the relatively thin layer of wood and asphalt most people have above their heads.  My father, in the words of one who knew him well, didn't just start a business - he created an industry.  No one had heard of a "roofing consultant" until Mike Kelleher came along. 

People don't think about their roofs, Daddy used to say.  They put them up and then they forget about them, until there's a problem.  And when there is a problem, people are at the mercy of contractors who don't necessarily understand exactly what's gone wrong either.  Long before people understood walls, people sought roofs.  The earliest evidence of a roof, in fact, dates back 40,000 years to Siberia. 

My Daddy was neither the rock beneath my feet nor the wind beneath my wings. My Daddy was the roof above my head.  Like the roof over my literal head, I didn't see him often or find it easy to get to him.  I didn't have to be with him to know he was there.  Because like a roof, I could always feel his presence in my life, no matter how far apart we were:  keeping away the storms, sheltering me through the darkness, bearing up no matter what the weather. 

*Click on either text or title to hear the song on YouTube.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Rain

I took a walk yesterday. All around the gardens, in between the raindrops, the first official spring assessment feels to me like visiting old friends you haven't seen in a while. The weather was so extreme this past winter, I was happy to see so much apparently has survived.

The crocuses, the hyacinths and the snowdrops are blooming. The silver willows have burst gold. In patches, the grass is turning emerald green, and the branches of the lilac are swelling with fat buds. The waterfall is foaming and Mr and Mrs Duck showed up exactly a month ago.

This spring has a particularly poignant edge to it. It's a week ago my father died. For years, my father wished he was well enough to travel, well enough to come and see the beautiful place where I live.

As I splashed through the puddles and inspected the beds and the bushes and the buds, I felt very strongly that this year, at last, he has.

Monday, April 11, 2011

April showers

The sky is baby-blanket gray this morning.  When I walked the puppies first thing this morning, my winter jacket finally felt too warm.  The air is moist, still and soft as a kiss. 

There are things that I could do today:  I have articles to write, emails to answer, phone calls to return.  But the heavy stillness and the silence call to me, to be equally silent, equally still.  I feel heavy and empty all at once - my bones feel too heavy for my skin; when I look down I am astonished that there is not a hole in place of my belly. 

I didn't think it would hurt quite so much. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hyacinths to Feed the Soul...

"If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul."

....MOSLIH EDDIN SAADI, Gulistan (The Rose Garden)

And fortunately, the hyacinths are blooming. 

so raw

I watched my father die.  I saw him draw his last short breath, I heard his last huffed exhalation.  I saw the pulse beneath his chin flutter like a butterfly's wing, then stop.  I held his hand against my cheek - still so much bigger than mine - and whispered the songs he used to sing to me. 

I saw, for just a moment, his flesh turn transluscent, as if a light rose up from within.  In that moment, in his dying, my father was as absolutely beautiful as he ever was in life. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

for my friend, debbie, and her dad...repost

I wrote this back in September, when my friend lost her dad.  I wonder how I knew then how I would feel now. 

How did it happen that the sun
Could choose to rise today?
How can the sky be bright and blue,
And all the world so gay?
The trees remain in full green leaf
The cars buzz to and fro.
The world remains as just it was,
A day - or less - ago.
But now you lie so still and cold,
Your race forever run,
Your eyes forever closed to mine;
Your suffering finally done.
Thus it is that mine begins;
I wonder how it is
That everything seems as it was
Before my world went black.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The lion sleeps tonight...

Michael Joseph Kelleher...

March 1, 1936 - April 6, 2011.

Good night, sweet prince - may choirs of angels sing thee to thy rest. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

hell to get old

"It's hell to get old," my father said to me, the last time I talked to him.  "You can't do any of the things you used to like to do any more.  You don't feel well and it's no fun at all."

The last I talked to my stepsister, my father's liver was failing and she was taking my stepmother to see my father one last time.  Don's booking tickets, my brother is already there.  I know my daddy is tired of being sick and being bored and being old.

I don't think he has to worry about getting too much older.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

looking forward, looking back

The bitter and the sweet side of life collided last night with a call from my stepsister in California, that my dad has been admitted to the ICU and was not expected to survive the night.  By 130 AM, however, his condition had stabilized, and I remain cautiously optimistic.  The last I heard, he was in very critical condition, but his kidneys had begun to function again, and his blood chemistry was improving. 

It's not too often that the Door swings wide in both directions at once.  Losing my father in practically the same moment I gain a grandchild seems like it would be too coincidental and synchronistic even for me. 

And yet. 

For some reason I keep remembering the morning my oldest daughter was born.  As I lay in that sweaty post-birth state of near delirum, listening to my newborn baby make noises like a kitten, I realized that her grandchildren - my great-grandchildren - would most likely live to see the 22nd century.  I thought about my great-grandparents, who were born in the 19th century.  Contemplating that span of three hundred years, I felt a twinge of connection to something that I believe is as close to immortality as it's possible to come.