I thought I was going to write about blue today, but it’s going to be sky blue pink with yellow polka dots instead.
When I was a kid, if you asked my dad what his favorite color was, sky blue pink with yellow polka dots was his answer. Maybe that gives you a sense of what he could be like. Let’s just say that my family often put the fun in dysfunctional.
This starts with blue and that’s fitting, because that’s how I feel. My father will be evaluated for hospice care tomorrow. This is not wholly unexpected, he’s 95, and in the late stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. His disease has progressed with long periods of stability punctuated with precipitous declines. A few days ago, he began to slide after more than a year of somewhat steady state. It’s not unlike Stephen Jay Gould’s famous (among paleontologists, at least) theory of punctuated equilibrium in evolution. But rather than evolving, my father’s life and being have devolved in this way. As an Earth Science teacher, long before the depths of Alzheimer’s, I think Dad would have found that metaphor interesting. Given the starting point of this decline, it’s hard not to think it his last.
As I so often do when I feel blue, I walked. With little Capi in my backpack and Sandy by my side, I ventured from home into the desert. Today, the path before me recalled so many others. And my first hiking companion, my father. We hiked up Sunset Crater Volcano in Arizona, to the top of Lassen Peak in California, we wandered the Black Hills of South Dakota, he explained stalactites and stalagmites at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, and with me holding tight to the back of his belt where the trail was too narrow for us to walk side by side, we scaled the heights of Angels Landing in Utah. I am who I am and love what I love in no small part because of who he is and what he loves.
Like so many winter mornings, a flock of mountain bluebirds rose from the first junipers the dogs and I passed, evoking a memory of my first birdwatching buddy. Dad, of course. What a contrast the Saturday morning bird walks in the woods of Staten Island are to my desert morning bird walks now. And as I was thinking that, a raven flew so close I could feel its wingbeats move the air.
The breeze freshened, ruffling Sandy’s fur, and he waved his lovely plume of a tail. He ambled back to me and nudged my hand with his wet black nose.
“I guess there are worse things than being blue,” I said to him, and one of the mountain bluebirds agreed. Perched atop a juniper, he sang.
“Life isn’t always easy,” he seemed to say, hanging onto his branch in the wind, “but it is sweet.”
Not just sweet, sky blue pink with yellow polka dots sweet.
Note: I will be working on a deadline for the revision of my novel over the next weeks. I’ll be back here with you in April. Stay tuned, everyone! Thanks, Deb