My father had a grand mal seizure on the 1st day of the Omer last year, and he died on the 48th Day. This year, I have been counting, and I have been growing my beard. At first, I looked like him–he who was nearly always bearded, for as long as I knew him–now, the beard is longer. I look like nobody. A fierce barbarian; a homeless depressive–hiding in plain sight. Hiding in plane site.
I remember being a small child–visually and viscerally–being in the gym of my elementary school, waiting for the bus, when a beardless man in the suit came in and said he was here to pick me up–it was my Dad, but he had shaved his beard, and I didn’t recognize him–he, like, had to really convince me.
And as I type this story, and smile, and smile at it, I realize that I am now the only witness to it. Oh, how desperately I want to share it with him–to ask him, “remember that time,” and laugh at it–
My little son, Tom, three months old, thinks I’m funny. And I stood in the hallway yesterday, looking in the mirror, looking at my bearded face, thinking that I might only live another twenty years (since my father only outlived his father by twenty years, and he was not so much older than me when his father died) and that this would mean I would be leaving Tom when he is only 20–
Oh, I hope not. I’m sorry, Tom. I’m sorry I didn’t give you more of my time. I’m so sorry.
As part of getting the house ready, I have organized my library according to the Library of Congress Classification System, which unfortunately tends to privilege geography over subject–and in so doing, have identified gaps–books I have lost, and books I never had–though some measure of the gaps makes me think there is a missing box of books somewhere in the house, and in it, a copy of Dune and Gravity’s Rainbow.
Regardless. A new box of books, from the World’s Bookstore, is arriving today, to replace and supplement and complete. Piers Plowman, and Dune, and Gravity’s Rainbow, and many others. And one book for Tom, an early 20th century Mother Goose, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Online, in the preview, the third rhyme calls Jane a dirty slut for selling her bed and sleeping on a dirt floor. Oh well. We cannot judge the past by the standards of the present (?)
Tom stirs. He is beautiful. I love him.
This is what the website I am reading says about the Seventh Week of the Omer, which is the Week of Malchut, Sovereignty:
Sovereignty – the last of the seven attributes – is different than the previous six. It is a state of being rather than an activity.
Leadership is a passive expression of human dignity which has nothing of its own except that which it receives from the other six emotions.
On the other hand, malchut manifests and actualizes the character and majesty of the human spirit. It is the very fiber of what makes us human. When love, discipline, compassion, endurance and humility are properly channeled into the psyche through bonding – the result is malchut. Bonding nurtures us and allows our sovereignty to surface and flourish.
Malchut is a sense of belonging. Knowing that you matter and that you make a difference. That you have the ability to be a proficient leader in your own right. It gives you independence and confidence. A feeling of certainty and authority. When a mother lovingly cradles her child in her hands and the child’s eyes meet the mother’s affectionate eyes, the child receives the message that I am wanted and needed in this world. I have a comfortable place where I will always be loved. I have nothing to fear. I feel like a king in my heart. This is malchut, kingship.
My father dreamed of climbing a mountain. He was born in Tokyo, in the land of the Rising Sun, and he died in Philadelphia, in the fullness of May, with the sunset. He died on the day of Bonding in Sovereignty. The way that Bonding contributes to Belonging. He wandered all his young life, a nomad with his family, servants of the nation, and then rested for a time in his teenage years on the cusp of manhood in the City of St. Peter on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, until lonesome and restless, he traveled north, to a cold and mean industrial city which bitterly and ironically proclaimed itself the City of Brotherly Love, even as it besieged and dropped bombs on its brothers, even as it was a cold and hard place to emigrate too, even as it took part in the same Rust Belt decline and retrenchment that was the dark-side of the Reagan Revolution–
And he spent his life here, with a young girl who became a young woman, and they became the parents of three, raised in a little twin house with a little yard and just enough space to grow corn, unusual, unreal, and he became friends with his brother-in-law, who lived around the block, in a similar small house, and he went to work, riding the bus to the El, and taking the El into the center of the city, the bright lights, and sitting in offices, and coming home, to regal his oldest son with tales of business and office politics and bad bosses and daily frustrations–and he became an author, and his full bookshelves had a few books with his name along their spine–a good name–and his children grew up, and great success never came, and he struggled, and they struggled, and they succeeded, and while his sons were somewhat trackless, his daughter was strong and amazing, and after nine long years in love with the same man, who bore a spiritual resemblance to him, she married, his daughter, this man, in a carousel house by the sea in Connecticut, and he was there, and when his first granddaughter was born, a few years later, he was there, and when his second was born, a few years after that, he was there, and being a grandfather was the joy of his life, the great great joy of his life, and he had everything he had ever wanted, and then, one day, while out picking pumpkins in anticipation of the Hallows, he went blank, and his daughter, his wonderful, observant, brilliant daughter, saw, and got him to the hospital, where they found the little pumpkin in his head, the bullet-flower that was going to kill him–and I got the news the way a trackless son gets such news, after three missed calls from my mother, his wife–and I saw him that evening, in a hospital bed, scared but strong, but most of all, worried, so worried, for me, and he asked me how I was doing–
Oh Dad. Oh Father. I cried warnings to you, I cried pain to you, of the Great Fear of the Future Day, the Day in which I would sit next to you in a room and watch you die. And when the day came–after 47 days of struggle, and confusion, and tumult, as we watched your body fail, as we watched you age, and get weaker, lose your legs, and lose your continence, and then consciousness, but as you stayed strong with us to the end–oh, I thought we had more time–I thought we had more time–and you, having to make decisions, while failing–to go into hospice and discontinue treatment–
I didn’t know how little time you had. Until closer to the end. And then I wondered if you would go with the Omer–
Through it all, I chose not to fight it, I chose not to deny it, I chose to accept this bad and terrible reality, and deal with it, put my shoulder to the grindstone and push, do what needed to be done, as best I could–
But in so accepting, I was denying something else–denying my shock, denying my rage, denying the injustice, denying everything I had ever written in this long scroll, this long screed, the what, the what, the Rage Against the Dying of the Light–
We were told by the hospice nurse you were actively dying. I did not care, other than to know how we could help you be comfortable–we were told prior to that we were nearing the end; I did not care, I knew it, and I wanted to know what we needed to do. I watched you die, and I did not care, other than to be with you, and hold your hand, and let Sarah speak, and say kind words to help ease your passing away—your dying.
I guess the hardest moment for me was not the final vigil, but the day before, when following the advice of hospice, we increased your Ativan, knowing that would mean that you would never really wake up again, and we each had a moment, alone, in the Sun Room, with you, and I don’t remember it perfectly clearly, but I remember weeping, and looking at you, and I’m weeping now, as I type this, trying to remember, remembering the room, remembering the light of the setting sun, remembering your face, puffed somewhat with steroids, but still strong, your beard, your strong beard, finally, finally white.