I’ve never been much good at meditation, or at clearing my mind during the breathing exercises at the end of yoga. No sooner than I tell myself to “just be present,” my mind is ping-ponging in another direction.
Before I stopped working, it was really bad. Dad would come for extended visits and I would take time off or walk with him during a break in my telecommuting day. As we walked along the bike trail in Davis, my mind was busy ticking off what needed to be done for the kids, Todd, work, the house, Dad or friends and organizations. I used to memorize a list by associating each task with a finger. By the time I returned, at least all of the fingers on one hand had been assigned a reminder to be transferred to my “to do” list.
I grew up expecting that my father would not be in my life for as long as most people have their fathers in theirs. His big heart attack when I was five was a startling awakening to the realization that parents are mortal. My grandmother Nana, who had lived with us, had died the prior year, but Nana was old. Dad was muscular, purposeful and vigorous, the guy who held me on his shoulders in the ocean waves. Dads are supposed to be invulnerable.
Awareness of his mortality stayed with me through the years, always in the back of my mind. Would he see me graduate from high school, college? Would he be there to give me away at my wedding? Would he meet my first child? I certainly never expected that he would see me turn 50, or that I would celebrate his 95th birthday with him, as I plan to do this October 24.
Walking with Dad now, I have become far more conscious not only of what we are doing, and the daily changes along our three regular paths, but of my relationship with my father, this transient time with him.
Listening to Natasha Bedingfield’s anthem for the young and angsty, “Unwritten,” the chorus spoke to me as a reminder that this moment – every moment – with my father will not come again. So I freeze the pictures in my mind, and try to remember them by associating them with the fingers of my hand.
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten