Father's Day always waxes a bit melancholy for me since my own father died. This year, because my academic quarter ended on Friday and grades have to be posted by Monday, I don't even get to join my daughter and the Beloved Spouse (and gathered siblings and their children) to celebrate the day with my father-in-law. The fact that he's still with us (despite brain surgery earlier this year) is in itself worth enjoying, and I'm sorry I can't be with them.
Instead, the "puppies" and I are hanging out together while I grade exams. Even their presence is a reminder of the last weekend I saw my father, because we had adopted them the week before, and on the morning my daughter and I left for our final visit, I took pictures of them frolicking in the snow to show my Dad. By that time he was in hospice, but still alert enough to enjoy our being there, and the presence of other family and friends.
One of the reasons I try keep this blog up, despite growing pressures at school and the weird contraction of time that seems to be taking place as I age, is that my father would have loved it. He and I had been carrying on a lively e-mail dialogue for years, and if I had entered the blogosphere a few years earlier, he would have headed in with me, probably regaling us all with war stories and contributing his own excursions into Owens Valley lore.
Yesterday, after I'd been slogging through exams for the better part of the day, I took a break and Googled real estate offerings in Lone Pine and Big Pine. This amounts to an occasional attempt at therapy, makes me homesick as all get out, and probably does more harm than good. But one of the things that keeps me going is the idea that at some point in the future, my family can buy a little place in the Valley where we can get together on occasion, or stay for a real break from our workaday lives. Even the searing desert heat in summer is preferable to the local atmosphere, where the humidity is so high my glasses fog when I move from the frigid air of school and shops into the ozone-loaded, superheated swamp gas we breathe around here all season--and the "season" started early this year.
For the last two mornings I've actually been able to sit out with the dogs to read the paper from about 7 am until 8:30, although I have to douse myself with Cutter's to be able to avoid the mozzies. I keep buying up herbal concoctions in hopes that they'll work, but they don't, and a 7% DEET spray is the only thing that allows me to stay out of doors for more than a minute or two. At that time of day there's usually a breeze, and the temperature has dipped to the low 80s, so I can enjoy the birds and digest the Daily Poop before things start to heat up.
At any rate, house-shopping in the Valley offers a respite from the trials of exile, and if I could gather up about 10 million bucks I could buy a whole mess of gorgeous land and . . . . Well, maybe not. But one of my father's greatest gifts, as I have no doubt mentioned before, is my Valley heritage. He also left it reluctantly, but moved just to the other other side of the Sierras, only a few hours' lovely drive away.
I may still be at least a little ambivalent about digital technologies, but they do make it possible for me to "visit" virtually when I can't do it physically. And even while I'm tied to the prairie because my old house needs me to fix it up during my brief summer holiday (all two weeks of it), I can slip away occasionally with the computer, or the iPad, or my Uncle Art's video of a trip he took with my grandmother many years back, and just enjoy the Valley and old family haunts vicariously. If nothing else, my family's presence there over the years has given me more fond memories than I can possibly exhaust, so I can look forward to many more of these little moments until I can actually fire up Vera, pack up the dogs and the Spouse, and head into the sunset for real.
The photo, by the way, is captioned "Dad 1949" in my computer files; the guy next to him is "Ed" (perhaps his cousin?), but I don't know where it comes from. I would have been about two at the time, and he had already joined the Air Force. The shot's kind of cute, and shows a hint of the goofy grin that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
Happy Father's Day to any dads or kids with dads who happen to read this. If you still have yours, go hug him and thank him for sticking around.