I wrote the following piece a few months after my father passed away in 1995. Since then, a great deal has changed, and a great deal has remained the same. A day seldom goes by that I don’t think about the place where I grew up, its sights, sounds, and smells. And a day seldom goes by that I don’t think about my father and how hard he worked, and how much he loved what he did.
Sundays, Far from Home
I’ve just closed the door of my work room behind me. It’s Sunday morning, and everyone is still asleep. The curtain is open. My room overlooks the street, which is empty except for a few puddles. The sky this morning is a light, uniform gray, and a soft rain is falling. Drops of water are clinging to the bare twigs of the dogwood tree outside my window. The light upon them makes them look like jewels. Five very tiny birds, with tails longer than their bodies, have settled near the top of the tree. The birds are so light, they haven’t shaken a single drop of water down.
All is quiet.
The quiet reminds me of Sunday mornings long ago, when I would waken to the sound of my father’s coffee pot perking on the stove, and to the faint strains of church music coming from his radio in the kitchen.
While inhaling the smell of coffee, I would go over the possibilities for the day. A few minutes later, with little or nothing decided, I would get up and join Dad in the kitchen.
What a moment. Quietly opening the door that separated the kitchen from the wash room, I’d enter my father’s Sunday morning world: a simple table surrounded by simple chairs, sunlight streaming through the east-facing window, the smell of coffee and toast, a chorus on the radio, and at the center of it all a man in jeans and work shirt who was so completely himself and so right with the world that you couldn’t help but feel lucky.
There must have been times when Dad would have preferred being alone, but if he did I was never made to feel it. It makes me wonder now how my own children feel about me when one or the other of them wanders out of their slumber and into my early morning world. They are welcome, to be sure, but every once in awhile I am unable to offer much of a greeting, because I’ve awakened with the certain feeling that to speak would be a crime against the silence, which seems so perfect and wondrous.
I feel that silence now.
I want to stop and listen.
I don’t want to miss anything.
And I feel as if my father will come walking up the street in just this next moment, with a shovel over his shoulder and a cigar in his mouth. He will come to my window and ask me what I am doing here in a strange room so far from home, and, for the life of me, I won’t know what to tell him. I can say that I am writing, and he will see the words here on the page, but that answer, the obvious answer, won’t be enough. It won’t be the one he is looking for, the one he needs to hear.
He will look at me and wait. He will look across the years and the miles, and, as he looks, the weeds and dust of home will settle in behind him, and through my open window I will smell the vineyard.
“Is your mother up yet?” he’ll say eventually.
“No,” I’ll say. “She hasn’t made a peep.”
“Well, she needs her rest. Don’t bother her.”
How can I tell him that Mom is no longer at home either, but living here in Salem, Oregon, even now looking out her own window at the gentle rain falling?
My father will turn to go.
“Do you want to come and check the water with me?” he’ll ask.
But I know it won’t be possible.
I can’t follow my father, any more than he is able to stay.
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
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