Bittersweet, this year. The changing of the season I mean.
The dogged persistence of nature’s Spring re-awakening.
Here in the Okanagan, one welcomes happily the greening of the hills, the height of the sun, the air moist and fragrant with, first cherry and then lilac, blossoms. Magpies and quail nest in our yards.
The vineyards, soldier-precise in their positioning and preened to perfection, pullulating with the pulse of Spring. The alluring prospect of the searing summer heat to come, and brilliant days spent on the sand and the water.
And my father lies abed, for the last week now a guest of Hospice House and not likely to return to his home. My father too notes the greening out there, beyond the window that separates him from it.
His eyes mark the irony in nature’s re-birth as he eyes his coming end: They look off into the far distance well beyond the bounds of sense. And he doesn’t give a damn for politics anymore (tho’ he wearily welcomed the news of a New Democrat victory in Alberta of all places, will wonders ever cease?).
No. Wonders do not ever cease it would appear.
A life as adventuresome and rewarding as my father’s has lent a man in his mid-eighties a certain gravitas, an aura of authenticity; and, even in his increasing frailty, a grace and intelligence that is the definition of beauty. But he tires easily, and he awaits a hopeful end to the waiting.
But not before his last book is published.
Even the publishing world mirrors the cyclical nature of time with its spring releases. And my father’s last book is to be released on May 26th.
He completed his manuscript shortly after he learned of his illness and was consigned first to the hospital, next to a fine care facility, and eventually home to reside for a time again with my mum. But as he weakened, the task fell to me to complete the final stages of proof-reading and copy-editing. But the book was done and now came the wait for it to go through its final stages before printing.
The wait has come to an end, and the book is due in a couple weeks.
My father has written many books. An insatiable desire inborn to understand and articulate his preoccupations has resulted in a deep body of work that will continue to engage readers long after he is gone. And each and every book he ever wrote was greeted as a new baby to send into the world. And his last baby is assuredly his most dear.
And now the race against time truly begins.
I can imagine how beguiling this situation must be for my father.
In a profound sense, Time is not itself anymore. Dad lives in a constant Now, constrained within a very definitive, Hospice House Here. It is a Now of: When, How much longer? For my father to try to imagine existing in a degraded perpetual Now for even two eternally-lengthy weeks must be harrowing.
And so it’s not unusual for Dad to blurt out these days, when I visit and we’re amiably reminiscing or talking shop: “Really, Jeff. Two more weeks still?” And I will nod yes Dad.
And he will sigh, forlorn, and look well past the blasting greenery beyond the window.
Time is out of joint.
The urgent onslaught of the cyclical seasonal shifts steamrolls over the insistence of our particular, individual ends. The reality stings. Ephemera fades -- no need for cliches or platitudes here, no use for culture or politics in this phase.
And this is the sweet sublimity of the bitter Spring: as long as he who is my father is held in the hearts of those who love him, love abides. Naturally. And death is, somehow, not the end. As spring begins afresh. And another book to this world is soon to be born.
— Jeffrey Loewen is a Kelowna-based writer who plays music by day and politics by night.