Friday, June 15, 2012

Another small story

Father's Day approaches.  I lost my own father just before Father's Day not so long ago, so it has become far more than a mere greeting-card day for me.  As I mull over what a son mulls over, I'm also thinking of a small quotation in a post on Steel Wagstaff's blog about George Oppen's senility and dementia.  It's from a letter Oppen wrote to Philip Levine.

(another small story:   after the war.    We were in L A, I had been working in a tool and die jobbing shop, then started building tailor-made radios — phonographs, and then with a partner building houses       Message that my father (in S F) was dying. Hypochondriac family;   my father less ill than that, the meeting in his hospital room as equivocal, as difficult, as dangerous to me as all our meetings – - The nurse came into the room and asked me to wait outside a moment. I walked down the hall to a little waiting room and sat down. The floor-nurse on duty recognized me (I look like my father)    She said, I guess what a man cares most about in his life is his son.    I was startled, I was absolutely startled and absolutely unprepared.    My father’s temperature was running fairly high, I realized that he must have talked of me. My face must have shown how startled and how unprepared I was. The nurse saw it, and she began to cry     God help us all.

"... absolutely startled and absolutely unprepared."  And so I was, and continue to be, with regard to my own father's passing.  Oppen always did hit on just the right words.