into the trees

I had expected my father to drop off a library book two nights ago, so that I could return it for him. Instead, he spent an entire day wandering around Brooklyn, looking for an open library branch. He took so long he forgot to eat, so by the time he found his way back home again, he was exhausted. He said he walked all over Prospect Park.

“Did you get lost?” (I get lost there all the time.)
“Were you scared?”
“No, not really. I tried to let go and just enjoy myself. The park is very beautiful.”
“I’m calling you to wish myself a happy birthday.”
“Yes, happy birthday to me.”
“That’s nice.”

We discussed a fight I recently had with my mother. He said he wanted to stay out of it because he didn’t have the energy for such things. I said, I know, fighting is a waste of time. In general, I don’t let too much time to go by in a disagreement, no matter how much I am invested in my side of the story. We talked about how much time he thought he had left. He thinks three years, to make sure all the grandchildren are on their feet walking and getting into trouble.

I left the conversation with a renewed feeling of admiration for my father’s spirit. When my mother told me the story, I imagined him confused and distressed. Instead, he tells me about his effort to just go with the flow. (Rock star spirit.) Imagining him wandering through the park reminds me of the scene of Vanessa Redgrave in Howard’s End. In the beginning of the film, right before her character dies, she walks through a vivid field of bluebells that gleam in the dark…and that is all. I am reminded how much I love him, but there’s a tinge of sadness to this feeling, of course, because I am also aware that we have him on borrowed time.

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