There is a tree on a road near my parents’ house that I love. It is a giant valley oak, one of those that spear up from the floor of the San Joaquin Valley, towering over fields of cotton and alfalfa, running along dry creek beds, and shading dairy farms. When I was young, I would watch it lose its leaves in the fall as I drove to school, see it dark and looming through the thick Tule fog in the winter, and then fill out with fresh green leaves in the spring as the alfalfa field sprang up below its spreading branches.
That oak tree no longer turns green in the spring; and though it still stands tall and strong, I know that eventually its smaller branches will break off, and then its larger ones, until it no longer stands there, quietly marking the seasons.
And as I sit in my father’s hospital room, waiting for him to return from surgery and hoping he has been healed by our modern day wizards, I think about the tree I passed today on my way to the hospital..
There is an old Welsh lullaby my father loves called Suo Gan. An odd choice, one might think, for a farmer from the Central Valley. But it’s a beautiful song, and reminds him, I suspect, of his grandfather who he is named for, and who sailed on a boat from Wales when he was only a baby.
I know that someday, like the oak, my father will fail, and I will be forced to say goodbye to this man who has shaped so much of my life. I will not have forever with him.
But not yet.
I am thirty-three years old. I am a wife, and a mother. I am the caretaker of others, and a counselor to a precious few. Yet, I do not feel grown enough to face living in this world without my father. Perhaps I never will be, but I don’t want to find out anytime soon.
He is sleeping now, having fallen asleep to the playlist my son listens to at bedtime, which includes my father’s favorite Welsh lullaby. My mother sleeps in the chair next to him, resting, but still watchful over the man she has been married to for over forty years. And I watch silently, more aware than ever of the passing seasons.