I’ve spent most of this day in reflection and contemplation. How that could possibly be different than any other day is a riddle to me. But this particular occasion marks the eleventh anniversary of Thomas Maenpaa’s death. He was a good man, one that aspired to be a great man – not great in the world-sweeping change sort of way, but great in the impact he had on others.
My dad and I were close while he was alive, despite the difficulties and disagreements we had. His absence in my life has been significant, though I’m sure it has contributed to my strength. Now, with my own fatherhood visible on the horizon, it has cast his absence in a whole new light. No longer is it about the things he’s missed in my life – graduation, adventure, marriage – but what he’s going to miss in the lives of my future children. And what they’ll miss by not knowing him.
All these thoughts cluster in my mind, fragments at times or lingering details. Sad and mildly frightening things – like not being able to instantly summon his voice in my ear. Working to remember the little things, like the way he smelled.t
So I went hiking today, to get closer to his memory and to get some peace and quiet. Colorado Chautauqua is within the city limits, with trails leading up into the Flatiron Mountains. It was on the chilly side, a bit damp and gray – perfect weather for hiking. I took my time, did a nice couple mile loop. Brought some leftover pizza for lunch and a lot of water.
So a little past halfway, and a lot of uphill, I find a nice spot to sit. I had started a poem and was intent on finishing it. And I figured that pizza would be good right about then. So I sat there, eating cold pizza on a misty day in the woods, thinking about my father. I had an epiphany right there – that moment, a culmination of my memories of him – it all came down to eating cold pizza in the woods. He could have been sitting right next to me, telling me about some tree or flower, or showing me a caterpillar or strangely shaped piece of bark. And in a way, he was.
They say that time heals all wounds, but I think that’s absolute poppycock. Scars remain, and scars can be more painful than the rend that made them. But I feel closer to him now than I have in years, better able to understand him even if I can’t actually speak to him. All I can do is try to be as good to my kids as he was to me, to love them and teach them and show them the beauty of the world.
I’ll finish this off, before I begin to ramble. Here’s that poem:
Observance and Reflection 2011
Walking through rain-soaked woods In a world shrouded by mist Tangled up with tatters of the past And glimmers of a thousand futures Fatherhood dwells on the edge of mystery An endless pattern in the fabric I wonder what he would say And for a moment I can't remember The sound of his voice We'll never know those answers But I can imagine I can talk to him in dreams But he still won't answer questions Should I fear his legacy or welcome it? Will my child be cursed? Both thoughts and rock are chilly And purposefully oblique But at the core all is bright Except the rock New life, the gift of bright fire Brought with love and joy No longer living through other's missteps But still learning from my own Closer to peace