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12 years of Goodbye

12 years ago today I had my last conversation with my dad. In my life I had seen him cry only four times. This was one.

I was home from Jackson for the weekend. Tom had already said I could take as much time off as I needed. Dad had been in bed for almost two weeks at this point.

Being home was a struggle. I took the opportunity to escape to the mountains, to fish. I had recently revisited an area near where it had all started, my home water.

I was salty and sun kissed but felt refreshed after spending the day wet wading up the creek with my fly rod in hand.

I returned home and went into his room. I kneeled at the side of his bed. He was awake, lying on his back, looking up at the ceiling as I spoke.

“Hi dad, I went fishing today.”
“Where?” He said barely audible, his mouth dry and his tongue cracked.
“Warm river.”
“How was it?”
“It was good. We hiked in below pole bridge. We caught a lot of fish.”

I shared with him the day’s adventure and I could see his eyes light up. His eyes still looking up at the ceiling but dancing around as his memory took him to this place he knew well.

As my story ran thin I said
“I need to go now dad.”
“Why?”
“I need to go back to work now.”
“Why?”
“I need to go work.”
“Why?” Tears started trickling down his check.
“I’ll be back in a few days.”
“Why?”
“I’ll see you soon.”

I got up and left.

The next few days I would call home daily and ask how were things? Mom would answer very somberly. “Still the same.” I would recall the conversation we had and feel somewhat comforted.

A few days later I returned back home. I walked into his room to see him lying there heart beating and chest breathing, but he was all but gone.

I turned to my mom somewhat upset.
“I thought you said he was the same?”
“Yeah, this is how he’s been.”
“No, when I left I had a conversation with him. We talked about fishing.”

She was somewhat confused as was I, not understanding what the other was saying.

July 1st, Paul, Jenny, K and I, at the instruction of mom, got out of the house for a while. We went to the river. We floated a section he loved to take out of town guests. It was a somber float. Not much talking, no slashing or smiles like one would expect from a hot summer day on the river. Just a lot of inward reflection.

We returned home. K and I stopped to change into dry clothes. I was distracted by my neighbor for a few moments as we talked about a landscape project. After a conversation about which plants to plant and where we headed to the house. I drove quite quickly for some reason for the six block journey. The phone rang as we were making the last turn. We didn’t answer because we were seconds away from turning into the driveway.

We parked and ran inside. Paul was kneeling at his side, mom and Jenny standing near. He was gone. Moments before he had breathed his last breath. He was gone. And I wasn’t there. To say goodbye.

I sat stunned. I didn’t cry. I was confused. He was finally gone. I wasn’t there. I missed him, as he left.

Phone calls were made. The news was shared. “He’s gone.” Arrangements were made. It was over.

We went to the backyard. It was a warm evening. We sat and talked quietly, while he was taken away, perhaps about the days to come. But feeling numb we didn’t say much at all.

We returned upstairs and he was gone.

“I have to go to work now dad.”…but I didn’t. These were the last words I spoke to my father. I didn’t have to go. I chose to. I could have stayed and talked about fishing. But I didn’t.

River of the Mind

I find myself on the river. I think it helps quiet the voices, the conversations in my head. The what ifs and the why nots. It also talks to me, the waves crashing in on themselves, rushing to conclusions like I so often do myself. 

It’s not that I don’t judge myself as unwell. I actually do. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But we all do, right? Or is that what we tell ourselves to help feel better about the voices in our head?

This. This right here is why I go to the river. This is the sound I drown out why listening to every drop of water while not hearing a single sound. Everything but nothing. Sound familiar? Because I think it does. I can conquer the world but I’m not good enough to try.

It’s the voices I hide from. But it’s also the voices that speak so much clearer when on the river’s edge. I hear them. I hear him. I miss all the conversations we never had, I wanted to have. But that’s just not how it worked. I blame him, but I didn’t know how to either. And maybe that’s why he went to the river. Because that’s what he knew how to do. 

How much am I trying to speak to my dad when in actuality I’m just trying to talk to myself. The quiet deafening sound of the roaring silence caused by the power of a single drop of water. The power to clear, filling the emptiness of nothing, it fills the void when there’s nothing other than everything.

The river races like the mind. But then it does not. The river needs to move. Because if it does not, what is it other than a void filled by thought.

Sadie, South Fork, 2018

The Act of Prayer

Finding a quiet place, kneeling down, bowing one’s head, appreciating the things before you.

As a spiritual person, yes I do indeed pray. But the difference between how I pray now versus how I prayed as a “religious” man is that I do so now with my eyes open, in nature, appreciating while attempting to understand the complexities in the smallest creations found lying at my feet. I pray while walking. I pray while fishing. I pray while in nature, the mountains, the river. I think “This is God. This is Peace. This is the Grand Design.”

But to pray with eyes open, I see the destruction of our god, the grand loss of beauty that surrounds me. This is what man is destroying; our collective god, ourselves, our future.

I am disgusted by the hypocrisy behind our (yes, our) destroying of the greatest gift granted to humankind; an earth, a sphere, an interconnected web of life, greater than we will ever comprehend.

It’s not about black and white. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s not about politics or profit. But it does need to be about correcting the course, changing the trajectory, and having the discussion.

Stop waiting for the next life, a ‘better’ life. “If this is all there is, then what we do here is the only thing that matters. In fact, it makes it matter all that much more.” (House)

Maybe this isn’t all there is, but does it really matter? Respect each other. Respect our collective home, this amazing earth. What will we lose if we don’t? What do we gain if we do?

Come together, start the conversation, rebuild our community. Find a better way to solve problems. Together.

October 14th, 2018

Temperatures have taken a turn, a dusting of snow covers the mountains surrounding town, and fall colors are making their last stand before turning in for a season. It is a bit strange to have temps in the 20s and waking up to 4″ of snow on a day I had hoped to mow the lawn for the last time and trim up the perennial beds for the end of the growing season.