Above is another Morro Bay scene with a solo fishing boat and a sunset by the rock. It sets the tone for Part Two and parting from my father, who loved to fish. His ashes may even have made their way to this beach where I stood to reminisce of sunrises and sunsets gone by.
SUNRISE OR SUNSET: IT’S ALL IN YOUR POINT OF VIEW, PART TWO
The best part of the day, as far as I am concerned is the sunrise. Since I am not always awake for that, I will settle for an equally beautiful sunset. Sunrises and sunsets, however, seem to be the most fleeting times of day. That does not diminish their beauty. The shortness of time makes the moment more precious, and the light becomes ever so much more special. Such was the relatively short time I had with my father on this Earth.
We did not talk much about the past concerning why he and my mother had separated. (Neither of my parents ever said anything bad about each other.) He did like to tell stories about his adventures in Bolivia, some appropriate (and not-so-appropriate) memories of France in World War Two, and some tales of his side of the family, including details about my sisters. The stories about my grandmother shooting at rattlesnakes from a stagecoach may have been embellished, but I laughed anyway.
He had sad stories, too, about being homeless for a while after his second marriage did not end happily. Perhaps it was some of his less than happy memories that made us connect at a deeper level. He was philosophical after the loss of my first pregnancy and the subsequent nervous breakdown. He was just as comforting after the next two losses and other breakdowns. He would pat my head as if to impart some kind of secret knowledge into it. Perhaps he knew at some level that he would be the one to raise my family when he went to Heaven a few years later.
It was not a total surprise when my father got lung cancer. He had smoked for years. I would come up to Palo Alto and take him for the radiation treatments. We would have bouillabaisse at my motel. He had trouble eating but could still talk about poetry and politics. Sometimes, he would strum his old guitar, the one I now have in my bedroom, and he would sing French ballads. He got better, but he did not quit smoking. Perhaps that was the greatest lesson he inadvertently taught me: if you keep doing the same things, expect the same results.
I think I was the only one who understood why he did not want to go through chemo and radiation for the brain cancer. True to form, he read all about it and knew what was coming. I had wanted to take care of him, but was too ill myself. His sister kindly took him in. The hospice care was not long, just long enough for my sisters and me to say goodbye. One day, I leaned over and gave him permission to die on my upcoming birthday. I would be forty. As if to honor me, he died the night before.
We read parts of The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, at his simple service. I was playing the part of the fox, saying goodbye. He had to go Home to take care of “my three roses,” which I know that he did. It was a sunset for me that I will never forget. It was a sunrise for my children. Either way, the sun is still shining.