Posts Tagged ‘father’

“Since my earliest childhood a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am alive, if it is pulled out I shall die.” –Søren Kierkegaard

I received a phone call on my son’s birthday that a lady who had been helping my father during his illness arrived at his apartment and found his walker in the garage and his car gone. She knew this did not bode well because he was not supposed to drive with his poor eyesight, and he had been in terrible pain for a few months. She frantically drove out in her car, weeping and calling out his name as she searched up and down the highways and around the villages. In desperation, she drove to the police and reported him missing. They tracked his phone and found him dead in his car. He had driven to a secluded area and taken a handful of pills, and ended his suffering there alone.

I did not learn until later that various people had been aware that he planned to end his life, and that he had asked them not to tell me because I would try to talk him out of it. He said he did not want to hurt me anymore than I’d already been hurt. He had surgery only a few days before his death, and I am grieved to think his pain might have subsided if he had been encouraged to hold on awhile longer. I have heard that there may have been cancer or other issues that he didn’t reveal, but it doesn’t change the way that I feel.

I had missed my father every day of my entire life from the time I was a little girl. One of my earliest memories of him is when he visited me while a woman waited in a car in the driveway for him. My mother was inside the house and my heart broke for her and for me. That has been the story of my life. There was always a woman keeping me from my father, and I’ve always been jealous of anyone who got to enjoy his company, because I never did. I still love my father and I forgive him for his ways that he could not change.

Over the past few years, he told me he felt many regrets about the pain he inflicted on my mother and sister and me. Visiting Spain was painful, because it let me see the beautiful life that he never would include me in. Someone in Spain recently sent me a message which I had to translate from Spanish, saying that my father had horrific recurring nightmares in the months before he died: He dreamed that the two of you, you and your sister were still little and were crying, screaming, grabbing his pants legs … Begging him not to leave … That he would not abandon you ….He would wake up crying, sweaty, he would sit on the bed and put his hands on his face …. He was very aware of the pain he caused you. It hurts me that I did not know how to transmit it.

I have also learned a few things he said about me, which I had not known before he died. I asked a Spanish lady to place a purple flower in my name at his memorial service. I later saw the photograph of the lovely orchid she offered on my behalf, and saw a note attached which read, “With Love to My Poppy from your Delicate Flower.” The lady explained that my father called me his delicate flower and that he often said that I was amazingly strong and yet very delicate. He told her he respected and admired me. It means so much to know that he felt this way. I still talk with him in my mind and send him text messages, because I miss him terribly. I had hoped to visit him during the holidays, but now my dreams of time with him are shattered.

I will always remember the lady who searched for my father and tried to save him. I felt that I was driving with her and screaming through the car window that day, and I too was crushed with a terrible weight when they found his body.

Please pray for me and my family in this emotional time.

Peace and Grace,
~Olive~

 

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Yesterday in Mallorca, a sweet lady presented this purple orchid in my name to my father. IMG_20170429_112105 On the card it says “For my Poppy with love from your delicate flower”… I am so touched by this kind gesture.

Here are a few photos of my father:

I will miss him forever and a day. Please pray for our family.

Peace and Grace,

~Olive~

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My father died two days ago in Valldemossa, Mallorca, Spain. I have written this poem as a tribute to him. Please pray for our family. Peace be with you.
~Sister Olive~

My Father’s Voice

His voice was as warm as pure maple syrup over pancakes.
It was as gravelly as a mountain road in West Virginia.
It arrived with a rumble like a train into the station.

His voice pranced onto the stage
As classy and sassy as a sexy dancer in red high heels.
It rung like a round glass of red wine tapped by fingernails.
It bleated like lambs under the almond trees.
It played rich like the viola, gentle as piano keys,
And heavenly as the harpsichord.
It sang like the nightingale under the moon in an ancient olive tree.
His voice could make thunder and rain and snow and a clear day
All at once.

When he spoke my name,
I stepped into glass slippers and onto a castle balcony,
Draped in white satin with golden lace rustling about my ankles
And a pearl ring upon my finger.
A noble white dove lighted upon my shoulder and whispered peace to me.
The wind stroked the bell towers
And I inhaled the scent of jasmine and orange blossom.
That was the power of his voice over me.

But in April the floods came
And the hands of the clock died
And the bells rang hollow upon
The twelve bubbles of midnight.
My head is under water
And the fish kiss my eyelids with their tiny lips.
I can only hear the sound of his final sigh.

 

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Three Angels

My father has been very ill of late, and I have been thinking about some of the beautiful words he spoke to me in Spain when I visited him in 2013. I never had a chance to get close to him or know him as well I wished, but he showed me his sorrowful heart a few times in a meaningful way.

One night with tears in his eyes, he said “You and your mother and sister have all suffered so much, and you have passed through the fire with tremendous dignity and grace. I consider the three of you as beautiful angels and I admire all of you so much. I have had a very good life, but I haven’t been good. All I want now is to try to take care of my three angels. That is my only goal.”

As one who received little validation or affection from my parents, this was a very healing experience inside of me in ways I don’t even fully understand. Though he has never been the sort of father I could truly enjoy as a daughter, he is still my one and only dear father.

I often wish I lived in Spain, especially in difficult times like these. Please pray for our family…

Peace and Grace,
~Olive~

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I learned so much among the Spanish people, not only about civility which seems to be disappearing in my own nation, but about things that make life simpler and more pleasant.  I would never intentionally shed negative light on my own country, but we could learn so much if we would be more humble and listen to our friends from other places.  My father was a wonderful guide and explained many things to me as we wandered around different villages and cities.

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For example, I love the beautiful lace curtains that hang over the doorways in Spain, and it didn’t occur to me right away that I didn’t see any screened doors or windows.  My father explained that the lace is a more fashionable way of fulfilling the same purpose. When the doors are open, the lace keeps insects out of homes. Many of the people have beaded curtains, like the ones that were so popular in the hippie days in America. Flies and other insects can sense the motion of the beads in the breeze and it frightens them away.  And the homes are more aesthetically pleasing to look at without all of the screens.

One of the most pleasant features of Spain is the remarkable cleanliness of the place. The streets in even the larger cities like Barcelona were incredibly clean.  I never saw trash cans or litter drifting around while I was in there, because the business of trash disposal and collection occurs at night.  Metal hooks are set into the stone walls beside the doors, and the people place trash bags on the hooks at dusk for the trash collectors.

In the entire time that I was in Spain, I never sat at a table in a restaurant that had spills or crumbs on it.  Even in the airport McDonald’s, the tables were kept spotlessly clean and shiny. People seem to genuinely take pride in their villages and cities.

One taxi driver in Barcelona was beaming with pride as he explained to us about the best sites to see during our visit, and he pointed out his apartment as we drove by, remarking several times as he drove that he loved living in this beautiful city.  I don’t know that I have ever seen people take such pride in their places of habitation.  In America, we are proud of our own property, but Spaniards take pride in their whole community.

After a couple of weeks in Spain, it occurred to me that I had not seen any semi-trucks on the highways even in the cities.  My father explained that they transport merchandise at night, not in the daytime.

I saw a sign in the village square which showed a picture of a hand covered in chain mail, and I asked my father about it.  He told me that is was for the butcher shop. He explained that in Spain, a butcher is required by law to wear chain mail over the hand which is holding the meat when he cuts it.  It is not only a tradition but a matter of insurance liability. More importantly, it’s good sense.

My father asked me one night if we wanted to go to a tapas bar, and I glared at him and said “What?”  Then he repeated himself, and explained that tapas are appetizers or hors d’oeuvres.  In Spain you go out for tapas when you are not ready for a full meal but you need a little something to hold you over.  I love this concept because it saves the embarrassment of going in a restaurant when you only want soup or a salad and the waiter looks at you with annoyance as if to say “cheapskate” or “there goes my tip for this table.”

I noticed that many waiters wear arm bands above the elbow that resemble garter belts made of black satin.  So one day I inquired of a dashing young waiter, “Do your arm bands represent something, or do you wear them just to look nice?”  He answered, “We adjust the length of our sleeves with them, so that our cuffs don’t come in contact with the food we serve.” What a great idea! And they look much classier than rolled-up sleeves.

I saw mostly small cars in Spain, because they are economical and more suitable for the narrow roadways and easy parking.  I did not see the gigantic gas hogs driving around there like I am accustomed to seeing here.  The people are also smaller, and I rarely saw an obese person.  The competitive over-consumptive capitalistic spirit seems to be absent from the atmosphere.

Weapons don’t mean a thing to most Spaniards.  My father says that aggression takes place everywhere, but the Spanish people don’t like fighting.  In fact, he says they don’t like to place their hands on each other at all during an argument.  When they get angry with one another, they shout mostly, but seldom push or strike one another.

My father says that there is a strong sense of community in Spain, that
there is not an attitude of every man for himself, striving against the whole world.  Spaniards think in terms of every man for himself and his neighbor.  He said that Americans think this is communist, but it isn’t. Communism is every man for the government.  What could possibly be wrong with “love thy neighbor as thyself”?

There is no charge for medical care in Spain, and if you need antibiotics, you don’t need a prescription. You walk to the pharmacy and buy it complete with instructions on dosage, warnings, etc.  You are assigned a doctor based on where you live and from there to specialists if you need them.  Spain is fourth in quality of medical care in the world, and America is around thirty-two while the care is more costly than anywhere else. My father had a quadruple bypass surgery about two years ago, and paid nothing for his care. There goes that community spirit again.

People really enjoy being together is Spain. When you meet a friend at a restaurant, you don’t sit for an hour and get your ticket from a hurried waiter. You commune with your friends for hours over food and wine presented with style and kindness. No rude service there! My father says once you sit down at a table, it is yours as long as you like and no one will take it from you.

The cathedral bells there ring out the hours of the day, the church services, special holidays, and the deaths of villagers. I loved seeing the birds flying from the bell towers when they chimed. There are unique rings for each kind of event, and the bells toll differently to signify the passing of men or women or children.

I have been dreaming of Spain ever since our departure.  My son and I wandered around the beautiful Barcelona airport for an hour or so before our departure, shopping for last minute souvenirs and gifts.  The floors were so polished that I felt as if I was walking across a pond.

When we flew into the Atlanta airport, we looked out the windows and saw trash everywhere in and around dumpsters.  As we walked inside, we smelled the dismal smell of sweat and dirt.  We were so sad that this is what foreigners experience when they arrive in America.

When will we ever learn?

~♥~

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The village of Valldemossa affects my mind like a dream because it is so quiet and charming, and the people seem to be the same.  Those whom I met had soft voices and a gentle demeanor.  In the first shop I walked into, a white-haired man smiled at me and lowered his head as if to say “Welcome.”  I don’t know how he could tell I didn’t speak Spanish. When I had found the scarf with oceanic colors that I wanted to buy, I approached the man and he took out a calculator, pressed some keys, and showed me the display.  “Gracias” I said and counted my confusing little coins.  The paper money started with fives and that always mixed me up, but I placed one- and two-euro coins on the glass counter until I had the right amount.  The man wrapped my scarf with decorated tissue that said “Valldemossa” in provincial blue, and placed it into a pretty paper bag.  We nodded nervously at each other and I stepped away.  As I reached the threshold, the man got brave and said “hello.”  I wanted to chuckle, but I didn’t.

In Spain, banks are required to dedicate their profits to social and artistic projects in the villages. One afternoon, Sa Nostra bank brought in a choral group to sing and I walked in with my father and son to listen.  Three rows of ladies and men sang in Spanish with pleasant melodies and harmony, and their faces seemed to be glowing with peace.  After listening for about half an hour, suddenly I was pleasantly surprised to hear a line in English: We are marching in the light of God; we are marching in the light of God.”  I noticed the singers began to switch languages so that everyone could hear these words in their own language.

After the concert, I talked with my son and said, “These people seem so sweet and humble and happy.  They remind me of the Who’s in Who-Ville (from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas).  “I could see that,” he replied with a smile. (The thought occurred to me that my father could very well be the Grinch.)

As I walked through the monastery where Chopin wrote some of his most famous music, a lady named Francisca approached me and offered to take my picture in the gardens.  I remarked, “Oh, the new Pope is named after you, I see” and she smiled broadly.

My father introduced me to some of his close friends during our visit:  Suzanne the quiet concert pianist who forgets her shyness altogether when she plays on stage, Barry the violinist who came with a kiss upon my hand and a deep kind voice, Michael the opera composer who met his wife Philippa when she was singing soprano in a concert, Nils the artist who sketched the musicians at the International Music Festival in Deia, Owen the cowboyish fellow from Peculiar, Missouri with floppy hat and a scar over one eye and fowl language after a few drinks, Arturo the English gypsy artist with a black and white pinstripe shirt, a large black handbag over one shoulder and a hot pink scarf.  “I love your shirt,” I remarked.  He answered with a sweet and high voice, “I am not ashamed. I got it from someone’s trash.” He stole my gypsy heart instantly.

My father leaned towards me and said, “You have asked me why I stay here and don’t return to the states.  These people are the reason, as you can see.”  Yes, I do see.

On our final day in the village, my son and I wandered for one last time down the stone streets. We stopped into the gallery of Coll Bardolet which also features a charming little cafe with various kinds of espresso. Just before we returned to my father’s wooden door, I saw Francisca sitting upon a bench.  “We are leaving tomorrow morning,” I said. “It was delightful meeting you.  This is such a lovely place.”

“You will be back” she said.

~♥~

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A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Today I spoke to my father on the phone and he said, “I am trying to keep myself alive long enough to come to the United States one more time in the spring.”  I couldn’t find any words to say in reply.  I later told my eldest son about this remark spoken so casually, and his face looked pained. “I wish he wouldn’t say things like that,” he said.

I nodded, “I feel the same way, but I think he is trying to prepare us for the inevitable. But we have hardly known him and now he is speaking of death. It hurts a lot.”

Last October, my father came from Spain and spent three days with each of his children.  After he had visited me in the South and my sister in California, she called me on the phone and said, “I almost fell over when he said he was staying for three days. That is the longest visit I’ve had with him.” It is sad but true. It was the longest in our lives.

Then winter blew in and Poppy began to ask me to come and see him in Spain, and he gave my eldest son and me a gift we will never forget.  We spent three weeks with him there in Paradise in the month of May.

Since then, I am trying not to fall apart from the longings inside, and Anger keeps whispering into my ear, saying “How could he hurt you like this after you have suffered so much already?”

But love covers a multitude of sins. I told my son, “Our battle now is to love purely and not feel bitter about the past or how late it is for him to come into our lives.  Your grandfather is reaching out to us now, and we might have never known him at all.  Many people never know their fathers or grandfathers. Think about that.” My son nodded.

So now we want to admonish Poppy that we expect him to live to be at least one hundred, and to come and stay for a longer time with us.  We have really enjoyed the tapas but now we are hungry for the plato principal.

~♥~

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