On May 1, after a day of May Day activities on the streets and avenues of Manhattan, my wife and I and a troop of other OWS celebrants marched into Zuccotti Park to jubilant exhortations of "welcome home" from a throng of fellow occupiers. The next day, my wife and I boarded a southbound Amtrak train to join family gathered at my dying father's bedside to bid him farewell.
May in Georgia...In this age of climate chaos, the local flora comes to bloom a full month earlier than in decades past. This season, magnolias and hydrangeas blossomed in early May. Their petals opened to the world as my father's life is fading. The magnolia petals have grown heavy; his body is shrinking. Soon he will drift from this world"carried by the scent of late spring blossoms.
In our once laboring class neighborhood, McMansions blot out the late spring sun. In the arrogant shadow of these shoddily constructed, bloated emblems of late capitalism, the neighborhood's remaining 1950s single level, brick homes seem to recede...fading like memory before the hurtling indifference of passing eras.
In late spring, veils of pollen merge with shrouds of Atlanta traffic exhaust. Timeless nature has awakened as the noxious capitalist certainties underpinning the aberration known as the New South are dying.
Hospice has arrived in the home of my father.
A death vigil has begun, as well, for our culture.
Lost, starving, wailing into a void of paternal abandonment, my father, left on the doorstep of a Baptist church adjacent to an Indian Reservation in rural Missouri, arrived into this keening world. Now, he is refusing to eat and is wailing, once again, into an abyss of helplessness...His bones, eaten by cancer, and his bowels seized up by the side effects of opiates, he is starving himself to death.
He now lies in his bedroom; his sight...set on the undiscovered realm of death. This world denied him succor; now Death offers the embrace that he was denied then (later) refused, as he proceeded through this life in a resentful fury. His wounds cauterized by rage-lit flames.
Now, I must comfort him...as he did me, when I was a child, seized by night terrors...that he both placated and caused.
He whimpers into the air of the small home that he once shook with rage. Now, betrayed by his body, and again orphaned by fate, he will soon leave this world -- a place from which he was perpetually estranged.
I hope the womb of night will bestow a peace upon him that was denied to him by this world. I hope whatever dawn he meets will hold him in an embrace so all encompassing and gentle that he will shed his compulsion to bristle and retreat. I hope he will, at long last, know he was loved.
My father was born on an Indian reservation and abandoned on the
doorsteps of a Baptist church in rural Missouri in the early years of
the Great Depression. A Jewish mother and Protestant father adopted him.
In those days, it was a standard practice of adoption agencies to offer
up for adoption children of so-called mixed ancestry to
interdenominational couples. Caucasian babies, the conventional wisdom
of the time presumed, would carry a stigma for life from being raised in
a home headed by such social deviants.
My mother escaped Hitler's Germany (barely) on a Kindertransport. My wife is from the rural South Carolina Low Country. She's a flat-lander, a swamp bunny. As for myself, I was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I'm an accidental Hillbilly...The lay of the land endowed me with a hill country perception of existence, yet I appreciate the mode of being evinced in places like Charleston and New Orleans...the humidity slowing down the pace of life"the mind as a gnat flurry.
My blood, as is the case with all of us, is composed of ancient oceans that long to know land and sky. On a personal basis, my atavistic blood is a sea of diverse ethnic consanguinity that meets the shore of a global polis. The waves of this body of water are changeable...sometimes, caressing the shoreline...placid, at ease in the world; sometimes, agitated and enraged by what I witness...becoming a series of antagonistic waves crashing against the insensate rocks of the mindless social circumstances that damaged my father so.
Soon, my father will return to the vast ocean of eternity. I consider it my duty to sing the song of my blood...to compose and give voice to sacred hymns, both of the personal and the collective.