Friday, April 10, 2009

My dad is dying

My dad is probably the reason my sisters and I love the night sky. When I was a child, he taught me the constellations -- the Pleiades, which he assured me were SIX sisters, although if you looked through a really good telescope you could see a seventh, which was probably my mom; were pursued by Taurus, with Aldeberon; which was pursued by Orion the Hunter; which was followed by his faithful dog, Sirius.

Dad didn't really know about Betelgeuse or Rigel or any of the important stars in the Northern night sky, and, as time went on, he found it amusing that my sisters and I found the sky to be something worth paying attention to.

When I was 14 and we were living on an Air Force Base in Tampa, he bought a cheap telescope because he knew that men would be walking on the moon, and he thought we should pay attention. He woke us all up and dragged us out into the yard and said, "Look at the moon. There are men walking on that moon." We were all disappointed that we couldn't see them, but he assured us that they were there.
And we believed him.

He was a 90s dad in the 60s. He would come home from work and we would eat dinner. Then he would load us into the station wagon and drive us all over the Air Force Base where we lived, pointing out the critters -- birds, horseshoe crabs, snakes, whatever. He would rescue birds that had fallen from their nests and birds that had been damaged by oil spills. He would sit in the hall outside our bedrooms and sing songs and read poetry until we fell asleep. Songs like Lindy Lou, Go Tell Aunt Rhodie, Sleep, Kentucky Babe; Sweetheart of Sigma Chi and On The Road to Mandalay.

He will die soon. With my wonderful sisters and my brothers around him. And the stars will be a little bit brighter.

Of all the money that ere I had, I spent it in good company.
And of all the harm that ere I've done, alas was done to none but me.
And all I've done for want of wit, to memory now I cannot recall.
So fill me to the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.

Of all the comrades that ere I had, they're sorry for my going away,
And of all the sweethearts that ere I had , they wish me one more day to stay,
But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise while you should not,
I will gently rise and I'll softly call, "Goodnight and joy be with you all!"

Oh, if I had money enough to spend and leisure time to sit awhile
There is a fair maid in this town that sorely has my heart beguiled
Her rosey cheeks and ruby lips, she alone has my heart in thrall.
So fill me to the parting glass. Goodnight and joy be with you all.