It's been several years now since I wrote this last letter to my Dad, six months before his death at 87. He was an extraordinary human being and the loss is still palpable and considerable to those who knew him and loved him:
Dear Dad, I've been thinking about you a lot lately, particularly because Father's Day is coming up in a few days. I reflect on my life and the incredible gifts you have given me–gifts that seem to be realized at each their own time. I recently read an article that I will paraphrase for you that contained one such recognition: "Seizing The Moment With Apricots." "When I spotted apricots at the Santa Rosa Farmer's Market a while back, I carefully selected a dozen or so that I thought were close to perfection. All but one seemed firm but not hard, and seemed to have a good aroma, though it was hard to be certain if the scent was coming from the fruit cupped in my hand or from the air itself saturated with the seductive fragrances of early summer.
One apricot was very tender, ripened to its absolutely ideal texture and taste. I decided to wait until I got home to devour it. By the time I got back home just an hour or so after I chose that delicate apricot from among its pile of siblings, it had passed beyond its peak of of perfection–it was nearly liquid. That's the thing about apricots–they are so delicate, their goodness as fleeting as a blush.
The lesson they teach us is to seize the moment, to embrace such perfection the minute we find it because such perfection doesn't, it can't last. That little apricot did not so much arrive at an exquisite state as pass through it." [(*1)]
What an incredible thought! I got to thinking how many people pass through such exquisite states and never know it! You gave me the gift of knowing such states and the vision to pause and be in them. Especially now in these darkened days of our reversal of fortune does that gift of perception turn our days bright and devours the potent energy of despair.
Every day T. and I are able to savor some moment–perhaps the way light strikes the trees at dawn, or the fields of wildflowers around us, or the scuttling beautiful flock of wild quails that live about here, and so on. To my way of thinking this gift is like the breath of life itself.
I think of you mired in numbing corporate work, struggling with the enormous weight of sustaining a family, the countless sacrifices of opportunity that came and went, your incredibly disciplined mind and determination. At my age now I can begin to understand much of it. And, I wonder and give thanks for You and all those moments you took to let us know how 'to smell the roses.'
Not a single effort has been wasted for now in my advancing years this great gift is my solace. It has enabled me to find friendship and companionship for the remaining years with one who knows as I do that the 'exquisite state' is forever. Not even death can destroy it. 'Some say it is like a river that surrounds the earth. Others say it is a beam of light flying forever into the universe.' It is love.
Your life and care for me has taught me how to love on all levels and I would say that the impulses of compassion are the most blessed. And, I am blessed for knowing you, for being taught by you and being loved by you as your son.
In this light you can see that I am not so much a prodigal son as one following the ineffable paths of the quest for love, for the spirit, for God, and having exhausted the world found the treasure so long sought in the smile of a friend and the gentle strength of a father who knew it all along.
(*1.)The above "Apricot" quotation came from author Michele Anna Jordan. Jordan was quoted at length in the above private letter and I publish it now to honor my father and she, who inspired my last words to him.
Jordan is one of those exceptional talents that can rightly claim the mantle of food writer/diarist M.F. K. Fisher. She can be heard each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 91.1 FM in Northern California and can be reached via e-mail at http://email@example.com. Jordan also has several excellent books published. Check out Google for further info.