“Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.”
(aren’t the quince beautiful in bloom? Julie Cook / 2014)
As you may recall, Dad turned 86 last week.
Last’s week’s visit was nice.
I purposely chose to ignore the office, aka, my old bedroom, with the latest stack of mail containing any and all errant bills–those late, those ignored and those cancelled notices of service.
The lights were on, their heat was working, the water was running so I just decided to go with the flow and ignore any pressing business at hand.
The week before that was not such a happy visit.
Upon my arrival, I made my way down the hall, back to “the office,” with Dad hot on my heels following. He was wailing for me “not to go in there,” assuring me that everything was fine in that high pitched voice that signals everything is not fine.
What I discovered upon entering the room was a couple of huge piles of very official looking papers, scattered in chairs, desks and the floor. . .several IRS payment vouchers, a myriad of file folders overflowing with records, along with some very official looking booklets from a tax firm.
UGH–I didn’t know whether I should sigh or cry.
“NO, STOP, DON’T TOUCH ANY OF THAT, YOU’LL MESS IT ALL UP!” he screams
I begin riffling through the stacks, OFFICIAL NOTICE, LATE PAYMENT, PLEASE RESPOND. . .”
“Oh Dad, this is not good” I lament.
“NO, STOP IT, GET OUT!”
“WHAT THE HELL??”
“Dad, there is no reason to curse”
“GET OUT, GET OUT AND JUST GO BACK TO CARROLLTON” he screams before plopping down in the chair droping his head to his chest bearing a huge frown on his face, much like a pouting child.
Gloria immediately admonishes him, telling him to stop acting like a child and attempts to remind him that “Julie has come a long way to help”
I feel the tears filling my eyes, stinging as I fight blinking them back.
I mustn’t lose it.
No, not here, not now.
Long story short.
I called my cousin who told me not to fret.
I called the tax man, who has yet to return my call.
I drove home rehashing the entire sad episode.
Thinking to myself how I very much wished, how I very much needed for him to still take care of all of this kind of stuff— this was his area of expertise–the finances, he’s always taken care of all of us in that regard and he’s always prided himself on doing it by himself. This is not my strong suit. I still very much needed for him to do all of this as he had yet to teach me how. . . this as the tears flowed down my face.
As I continued driving home, I simply pondered what to do.
Fast forward a week.
I had not spoken to Dad in about 5 days–I admit I was not only hurt, but I was mad at him. I just couldn’t bring myself to talk to him yet.
The phone rings. . .
“Juuuulie”– the familiar warble
“Hi Dad”– I say in my cheeriest voice.
“Julie, are you mad at me?” asks a very child like voice.
“Mad? Why would I be mad Dad? I’m not mad.
I was going to come up tomorrow but they’re saying it’s suppose to pour down rain in the morning.”
“I know, I hope it clears out by the afternoon because we have an appointment with the tax man.”
“Really Dad? That’s great”
WHEW!!! I silently shout.
Today’s visit was luckily short and sweet.
I had a 1PM appointment there in Atlanta so I quickly stopped in for a hurried bite to eat.
As Gloria was busy in the kitchen, she tells me to go in and visit with Dad.
I go plop down on the couch as dad is simply sitting in his chair with the TV muted. He’s rather silent.
“So Dad, how are things?”
“What do you think of all this Crimean business?” –this as he usually keeps Fox News constantly on the television.
“Oh it’s bad.”
“Do you now what I see every morning when I wake up?” he oddly asks.
No Dad, I don’t–what?” Thinking he’s going to say that pair of lamps in the den, the ones he’s told me, in no uncertain terms, to keep in the family after he is gone, I’m floored by what comes out of his mouth.
“Ed dead on that metal table”
“Oh my God!”
“Dad, Ed’s been dead almost 30 years.”
“Well you know I drove him to kill himself. . .”
‘Oh dear Lord’ I’m silently screaming in my head as I’m asking myself why in the world did Gloria want me to come in here to visit Dad if this is where he’s going today. . .”
He never talks about this kind of stuff in front of Gloria because she always puts him in his place mighty fast.
And once again I start the litany that Ed, (my bother who I wrote about many moons ago “Forgiveness, one step at a time), was very much mentally ill–his death had nothing to do with Dad. . .funny how he fixates on this when all rational common sense and everyone knows, Ed was mentally unstable—Dad’s obsession with Ed’s suicide goes well beyond the normal grief of a parent. Our family doctor had tried for years to work with him, getting him help, but it’s been as if he relished fixating and twisting the tragedy back to himself. . .
I look at my watch, 1PM can’t come fast enough.
More chatter about Ed. UGH
All as I quickly nip the direction of the conversation in the bud, turning back to Crimea and Malaysia– Suicide verses hostile takeovers and hijackings—what an afternoon!
Realizing that he’s not gaining any ground with me, he switches to the topic of Mother, who has also been gone now for almost 30 years.
Can we please talk about something other than death and how it’s all your fault I silently moan in my head.
My head is now starting to hurt.
I get up, going back to the kitchen, seeing if I can help speed Gloria along as the thought of running out the back door screaming seems most appealing.
Finally, its time for me to leave!
I make for my car, promising to come back next week for a longer stay.
“Good, I need for you to get things out of the basement.” Dad warbles.
This as I’m thinking that only large pieces of furniture remain down in the basement—all of which are not going to fit into my car. . .ugh
Finally and thankfully making my way to my appointment (mother of the groom dress thing you know), I marvel at how pretty all of the trees and shrubbery look as things are now starting to fully bloom.
The sky a brilliant blue, the tulip trees, forsythia bushes, cherry trees, the daffodils, the tulips and hyacinth. . . all in their full colorful regalia. It’s a true sensory overload, so much needed.
Old Atlanta, that part of the oh so shrinking the city which still harkens back to my youth, is so very beautiful. . .there is simply nothing as pretty as Atlanta in the Spring. The beautiful young debutante stepping out for her first debut and dance–that’s Atlanta all gussied up for Spring. An army of ancient oaks, which line the Atlanta streets like soldiers at attention, wait patiently under the growing weight of groaning buds ready to signal a new season with a new beginning.
Trying not to dwell on Dad or of our conversations or of his taxes, preferring rather to bask in the glory of blooms and colors which were now offering me a full palette of visual delight, I silently say a prayer, thanking God for blue skies, blooming flowers and the for hope which is lovingly woven into this single moment, the birth of Spring.