Come and Go

Come and go; heads and tails, yin and yang. It all describes the phases of life.

Ecclesiastes (the preacher) tried to explain it:

“Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! What profit have we from all the toil which we toil at under the sun? One generation departs and another generation comes, but the world forever stays.”

We enter the world, trying to comprehend who those people we spend time with are. “They feed me and comfort me when I cry, but who are they?” Eventually, we come to love them as parents—at least until we’re teenagers.

As life goes on, we gradually change from questioning to accepting. We go from “Who are these people?” to “These are my people. I feed them and comfort them,” even as the newest one, with a slightly misshapen head and a piece of umbilical cord still attached joins the family.

Our children grow, learn, experience, and eventually head out on their own. Eventually, we begin to lose our connection to this life. We’ve cared for our people. We’ve done our best. We’ve done our job.

In my parents’ case the transition was obvious. Mom fell and died suddenly; from that point on, Dad was ready to join her. My father was a strong man. He left high school early to enlist in the Navy. With his own hands and his high school education he designed and built a boat on the front porch (with exactly one-inch clearance one each side to remove it); he built a cottage—initially quite modest, but it eventually had several bedrooms, a very nice kitchen, indoor plumbing, and (in my humble opinion) was pretty darn cool. The last time I saw it, it had been expanded to a two story permanent home (Nice solid foundation, Dad!).

Dad also added several rooms and a covered concrete patio (and we’re talking 1950s and ’60s) to our home.

He was a police lieutenant.

He was a man’s man.

But he wept after my mom’s death because he and his soulmate were apart.

Nevertheless, he waited, because he knew that not all of his kids were ready to let him go.

As we let go of this world, there are signs. With my father, it was obvious. Because real milk had been unavailable to his family during the depression and the war, he found great pleasure in a cold glass of milk, He drank milk with every meal. As they grew older, my mother had to put her foot down to get him to switch from whole milk to a lower fat version, and eventually to skim—although he was kicking and screaming (silently) all the way.

When I was with my dad a month before he died, he told me that milk no longer tasted right. That told me exactly where we were. I knew he was getting ready to move on.

Soon he moved on. He moved on with me at his side. I suspect that Mom was waiting for him with a cold glass of milk that tasted perfect. It wouldn’t be heaven if it didn’t.

Thus it was, thus it is, and thus it shall be for all of us. But like the rising and setting of the sun, it’s as it should be.

Vanity of vanities . . .




One response to “Come and Go

  1. Thank you, Steve, for a beautiful tribute to your dad and your love—and ours. If home and parents don’t make sense, nothing will. Home and parents are a child’s rehearsal for one’s home, marriage, parental, interpersonal, and professional adult life.

    How can we live and thrive in the “community of man” if we cannot or will not respect the “community of home?” Home, after all, is where universal human rights begin? How can we truly love a spouse unless we love our parents?

    Some people come from somewhere–and take their lives nowhere: We can go from “nowhere,” to “now and here,” to “nowhere” again. Others come from nowhere and go somewhere.

    For those who remember their dads and moms, they understand it’s not necessary to understand everything. Yet, we learn and we learn—with every goodbye, we learn.

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