Yesterday, I wrote a haiku with my father in mind.
A tree in autumn
Gold leaves sashay in the breeze
I pass this majestic tree every day as I walk in a park near my home, and through each season, especially in this year of pandemic, something about it has brought me peace.
When its leaves turned to gold this fall, I decided it reminds me of my father, who, at the age of 87 is in his own autumn season, fighting for his life against prostate cancer.
The tree leans, its roots exposed, fighting to keep its grip on the earth that sustains it. Yet, laden with golden leaves, the old tree shows there’s still plenty of life and spirit within in its branches.
I’ve attempted to write my thoughts about my father many times in recent months, but haven’t been able to finish anything. We’ve all been trying to keep our thoughts positive, and my intent in writing anything about my father has been to express my gratitude to him for my life–for choosing me over his blue Jaguar. I want to thank him for raising me to be who I am, and for being everything a father should be. But, writing about those things feels more like goodbye than gratitude. And so, I haven’t finished anything, because I don’t want any hint of saying “goodbye.”
But somehow, seeing this tree as a metaphor for my father makes it easier for me to write about what I’ve been grateful for.
When my paternal grandmother was alive, I used to say she was the “goodest” woman I knew. Yes, I know goodest isn’t a word, and although “most good” might have been more “proper,” something was lost in that properiety. So, I chose goodest as the better word to describe her.
Although it’s possible that grandmothers only show their best sides to their grandchildren, I never saw a bad or mean bone in her body. She was decent, caring, loving and hard-working.
Today, I think of my dad as the “goodest” man I know. He loved me and my four siblings the best way he could, though I know in recent years, he’s wishe he’d been around more during our childhood. But, as an Air Force pilot, he was often gone for months at a time.
No, that doesn’t mean I think he’s perfect, but listening to him express what he knows of his own imperfections and mistakes in life has also made me realize one can be both good and flawed, and in realizing his imperfection, he’s helped me to accept my own.
My father is a quiet man, but friendly to everyone. He’s got a gentle (sometimes wry) smile that often makes me wonder what he’s thinking. People who know me may think of me as quiet, or at least, not very talkative. I get this from my dad.
Today, he’s fighting prostate cancer with everything he has. He’s currently going through his second round of chemotherapy, only a week after finishing radiation treatments. I know he’s in pain, and he’s weak with barely enough appetite to sustain him. But he forces himself to eat and get up and move though it would be easy for him to just give in. This, perhaps more than anything, is proof of the life he’s led, that he is doing everything he can to continue to be near those he loves and who love him.
The following words are from one of my favorite songs by The Lettermen. Amazingly, this morning, it played on Spotify as I walked by the tree. My eyes burned with tears as I thought of my father, the tree, and golden leaves.
Quiet thoughts come floating down and settle softly to the ground
Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
I touch them and they burst apart with sweet memories
In my next blog post, I’ll share sweet memories of my dad.