“I’m moving to India.”
Over in his swivel back chair, my father leaned back watching my face for translation cues, his eyes intent upon my own. Among the seven languages he could speak sometimes one of them was not Annelies.
I hurried on in a torrent of words to back up this proclamation, to buoy it into reality, my eyes watching his intently. He pulled me into his lap and held me. He stroked my mussed up curly head as one might do with a child and resistantly unfurled the word, “okay.”
Another time, same house but different room:
“I’m going to study poetry.”
His eyes bemusedly twinkled as he listened to this, my latest white rabbit anxiously pulling me down into its rabbit hole. Out came the laundry list of how poetry inexorably had woven itself into my life as a language I spoke in the belly of my being. He motioned me over to sit next to him and held my hand, saying, “My daughter to master poetry- while others might look to master business, she masters poetry.” And he chuckled aloud.
Last time, same house, same room:
“I’m in love.”
His face became a blank canvas as he sucked in breath like taking a drag on an invisible cigarette. His eyes smiled, seriously. This time he spoke in questions like a parental call and response. As I left, he hugged me in the great canyon of his chest where nothing could touch me. Nothing could go wrong.
And I think in retrospect of the gravity of parenthood, its catch and release.
And I think of the small letting go’s and the grand send-offs.
In the end, he was preparing me for his death, for this separation, by teaching me a different language- one of touch and words, of moving on and staying close. This time last year built up to be the happiest week of my life. Soon there would be rings and a vow and a joining. But at this time, none of that had happened yet. It was a promise lingering in the air with the certainty of sunrise. It was the empty seat at the rehearsal, the phantom arm holding the other arm as Mama marched me down the aisle.
Ours was the stuff of complexity, of trading holidays and playing house. Last year around this time, I remember thinking a thought I hold now, “why couldn’t I have them both?” Instead, some part of me innately knew he let go when he knew I would be cared for- body, mind and that poetrysoul that made him cheer on my latest conquest.
So when we need to be comforted, when nothing else will do, there’s prayer. And I’m going to submit to you, a pot of homemade soup doesn’t hurt. Especially a pot of minestrone. The humble vegetables that melt in your mouth combined with the tang of tomato and fennel warms up the body against the brittle cold. And if you close your eyes and open your nose, the smell lights up the spirit- soup as an inside-out hug.