stardust and golden

Well then can I walk beside you
I have come to lose the smog
And I feel as I'm a cog in something turning
And maybe it's the time of year
Yes and maybe it's the time of man
And I don't know who I am
But life is for learning

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

—Joni Mitchell, from Woodstock

Every once in a while I see someone who reminds me of my dad: tall, thin, mostly bald with a band of white hair like a wreath slung around the back of his head. My dad would have been 87 this year. He was a pillar of strength and he should have lived far longer had it not been for the cancer that had completely consumed him by the age of seventy.

Michael and I watched a movie last night that made me think of my dad, of when he was sick. Christopher Plummer was the man who, in some ways, reminded me of him. As I watched the scenes of Hal in the hospital, Hal with his son, Hal at home in his hospice bed, I regretted not being at my dad’s side in those final weeks and days. When I said as much over coffee this morning, Michael reminded me that my family had kept things from me, had tried to shelter me, hadn’t told me until he'd returned home that—weeks before his death—Dad had been in the hospital, twice. I’ve always resented that. Perhaps I’d have jumped on a plane to be there sitting next to his hospital bed as my father battled pneumonia, been able to walk with him down the shiny linoleum hallways wheeling his IV along on a tall, aluminum pole. But my family, thinking it would be better for me, didn’t let on, as opposed to honoring my right to know as Dad's youngest adult child.

And so today I am missing my dad and thinking of that last telephone conversation we had from across the country on the day he died. Perhaps he’d known I’d been with him in spirit every day while he was sick. Every night, in my San Francisco flat, I’d dim the living room lights, roll up the white wool Berber rug, light some candles and a joint and perform a sort of meditative rain dance to this one particularly beautiful, eerie, cancerous song, hoping for Dad to finally be at peace. Then I’d cry for him.

Thinking of you dad. You are stardust, you are golden. But then again, you always were.

Me and Dad, 1965

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful tribute -- and the photo is adorable.

    I loved that movie --