August 12, 2009

"I suspect that nothing is idyllic except in retrospect."
Jim Harrison, Off To The Side -
I should be tying flies. A week and a day must somehow come to pass before my son and I set out for the Elk. Seems like it's been forever just getting this close to being at hand, noting the events of the past several weeks, but, quite possibly those same events are largely responsible for the planning of this trip.
At least that's what the romantic in me whispers.
Earlier this morning, as I whip finished another Adams, it occurred to me just how fragile our lives, and thus our relationships with those we hold especially close, really are. How much those inner kinetics are influenced by the timely mechanics of living and dying! Maybe my father, in his passing, now has a ringside seat for all the individual little dramas that we as family members are experiencing as we now learn to live and die without his immediate presence. Although, I suspect he probably had a better view of all this than I ever gave him credit for having while he was still here.
A few days before his memorial service, I had an odd experience of sorts. Not terribly odd, but out from the realm of my usuality enough to cause in me, to this point, several moments of retrospect whereby I re-run that afternoon past, stilll amazed that it indeed happened in just this way.
I was sitting out on the deck where I currently reside, having taken a break from my daily ritual of cleaning fly lines and mending leaders, my trusty pen and pad close in case I was struck by sudden inspiration. I remember wondering how many cars I must watch travel by each day on the arterial as I sit there, and in a sense how calming this activity is, most certainly because I go next to nowhere each day except to the river and that's early in the morning and if I had to go anywhere now I wouldn't because look at all that damned traffic...
... and I sort of came to, then, pen in hand, and there in my lap was the notepad. And on the page was a poem I'd written. To my dad.
I put my fingers in your hand while you laid there
struggling to breathe,
and fought back tears
while I talked about flies, and fish,
and every now and then
your eyes would nearly flutter open
and I swear I could feel you squeeze
my hand.
I know only a little more now
than I knew then, dad,
as I watched you there, dying,
but what it is that I now know
is that I miss you
more, so much more,
than I thought I ever would.
We did fish together,
not often,
but we did,
and I promise to never forget.
And, when I wade into my river,
I know you'll be close by,
waiting to hear how I've done.
There it was. I have now, nor did I then as I first looked at it, no memory of putting it on paper. It made me cry a little. Not so much that it was so eloquent, because I'd have done better in that had I taken my usual inordinate amount of time to get it that way, but because it so succinctly put into words the sum of our relationship. Not only that, but it will also serve as a reminder as to the real depth of what we had as father and son.
And so soon my son and I will journey north to the Elk. We will camp and fish, and while we are there, together, we will make memories. Each of us will take with us that which is deemed priceless. For me, it will all be just that. Priceless. For as I sit here, now, writing this, I have come to understand what years gone by, what aging, and mostly what the irresistible passage of time really mean to me. It's not all bad. In fact, in more ways than I have yet come too understand, it is remarkable. I hope that my son will at some point experience the same kind of slow epiphany that I have come to, in his terms. It will, as it has for me, make the life yet to be lived that much sweeter.

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