The Hermit Poet

April 19, 2007

Where I’m At

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 9:41 am

For those wondering, the rest of my trip to Los Angeles was fantastic. I had a wonderful time hanging out with old friends, getting to know the city again, and lurking about USC campus. I ate well, spent leisurely afternoons and evenings in conversations over board games, and even had a chance to go to the local Renaissance Faire (never been before). It felt like I had stepped into another world — a place that has been waiting for me to return.

When I arrived back in Vancouver, I spent the first few days attending poetry readings and doing some writing. I was productive, but at the same time worried. My mother had called and let me know that my father’s condition was slipping. She asked for me to come home and to say goodbye to my father who will not likely make it through this month.

So right now I’m in Penticton. The weather is beautiful. Sunny some days. Cool and overcast on others. A wind is blowing through the valley. My father has been moved to the hospice house for his remaining time.

These days he can no longer move his own hands and arms. His tongue has stopped working. We must rely on his eyes. When he wishes to say “Yes” he raises his eyebrows — an old habit picked up as a missionary in New Zealand and the Cook Islands when he was young. When he wishes to say “No” he closes his eyes tight. Even this is becoming taxing for him. We see him staring straight ahead more often — as if he is seeing something we cannot or that he is fixed on a goal. He is become a man on a boat with no oars, drifting forward with the tide, gradually heading to the horizon and beyond. We are on the shore watching.

Right now I’m in a place between grief and comfort. Right now I am ready to say goodbye, but not ready exactly. Right now there are poems I have written which shed their masks and revealed themselves as elegies. Right now there are more poems to write. Each line of words is what tethers me to the world of the present. Each movement an echo of my own heart.

I am spending this month in Penticton, celebrating my birthday this Saturday and saying goodbye to my father, my first and staunchest fan. In a little while, he will pass on and I will give the eulogy at his memorial service. And after that, I will head back to Port Coquitlam to finish packing, to move my books into storage, to sell off my furniture, and finally to fill my car with my things and drive back here to Penticton. I will spend June and part of July with my mother, and we will take care of whatever needs to be done before I leave for USC. Right now, my mother says, she has locked away her sorrow to focus on caring for my father. She has hefted this weight and marched steadfastly for months — I’ve only been home for weeks, and already I can sense what I did not know so well before — how strong my mother is, how determined and unfailing in her service and care. In these hard and difficult times, it is this remarkable woman who comes to the front and pushes forward, ever forward.

My father, I am certain, will remain with us after his passing. He will continue to stand by us, continue to remind us of what needs to be done. Wherever I go. Whatever I write. I am certain he will be there to cheer me on.

In this month of poetry, in the midst of language, on the shores of the ocean of memory, I am learning the words to an old song, the one every son has sung at some time since the world began.

One Response to “Where I’m At”

  1. Anne Says:

    The work of grief & comfort can be exhausting. I hope you are making time to be kind to yourself in the midst of all this. And yes, your father will remain with you. I didn’t understand that until my own father died and a few days later I realized how much of him was a part of me — it really is true, he will always be there.

    Take good care.

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