In the bowels of the one hundred year old hospital, each physician's office has a “turkey pen” to be used for the storage of items pertaining to his or her practice. My father's pen was a 5 by 15 foot galley, quite literally walled by chicken wire with a small, roughly hewn door frame as a gate, swinging outward into a narrow pathway. The ceiling is low enough that I have to crouch a little when dodging the expansive grid of heating ducts, pipes and wires. One drab fluorescent light hums and buzzes as it works overtime to show me anything.
Down here, time lumbers ahead only in once-a-year search missions or in maintenance calls. The paper lives of thousands of patients are entombed in the din of boilers and compressors. The embalming incense of archaic equipment and sweating concrete walls invades the nostrils with a slight sting.
It was down here that I spent an entire Saturday sliding banker's boxes of insurance records and doctor visits and overinflated dictation notes from the pen to the hall, the hall to my father's darkening office, and from his office to my grandmother's pole barn on the lake. Mom and I unloaded the orphaned boxes and stacked them in front of lake things. They didn't belong there and they really didn't belong anywhere.
Mom asked if I wanted anything from the forty year old practice, a career that denied me a lifetime of paternal presence. She offered bandages and drug samples and books such as: Topical Fungal Infections; The Color Atlas of Oral Pathology; and Prostrate Health.
I used to make rounds on patients with my father when I was a little girl. All the nurses knew my name and always made a point to tell me how my father saved many lives. He was a rock star of healing and human compassion, sacrificing a major role in the scenes that played out at home so that he could love and be beloved.
Reading the story of Rumi and Shams, I used to easily slide across the centuries to idolize their sacrifice of family and the ordinary for the everlasting mystical legacy of spiritual profoundness. Yet, who did the twin flames leave behind? How did Rumi's family fare while he whirled and turned towards God?
I chose the glass paperweight that kept my father's stacks and charts from disorder and chaos. It sits on my desk, weighing down memories of how it feels to be the lesser choice.
There are many days where I sit alone and write alone and beg and whine and maneuver to be alone so that I can in turn write alone. Maybe one day, a book or a collection of poems that will mean something to a hungry traveler long after I am dead. And, what wordsmith hasn't allowed a few moments of grandeur and ego to sneak into the altruistic, banal need to simply write by imagining the healing impact of her words that saved the world?
Sometimes, my family gingerly knocks on the door. They joke about me emerging from my “hidey-hole.” I leave them behind on long stretches of solitary travel or hotel stays so that I can write. I get frustrated and angry when I can't read or spend time writing. The calling calls and doesn't stop.
Yet, fathers and daughters. Apples and trees. I hate his choices with the power of embodied proof on my side, yet I become the odium I mean to destroy.
There is no one to heal – no impoverished wanderer in need of words, no spiritually lost needing a lighthouse on the pier of time.
There is only the universe inside, expanding itself against a futile, yet holding, gradient of the perceived world.
Foolish thinker, it is not you who longs to meld into pine-scented sky or to rise and play with the birds who attend! It is they who knock on your painstakingly hand-carved wooden door, disregarding the ornate beauty for known promise of home within!
My father is not dead. Maybe there is still a way to forgive his reflection in the soul's ever deepening lake, a way to swim to the bottom of the self to leave it all behind.
You know not / how you show me / to swim.