Thursday, April 1, 2010

Red Sky in Mourning

"I don't remember yesterday. Today it rained."
Three Days of the Condor

The sky was red this morning and that portends rain, they say. When there is a funeral or someone is sad it is a cliche to say the sky is crying, so I won't do that. But a misty California day full of clouds and glimpses of sky, with the green hills in the background of it all, does seem appropriate for the day of my father's funeral.

We will be saying Psalm 121--"I lift up mine eyes to the hills"--because those hills will always seem to me to be a part of my father's life. He was always climbing them to see what was on the other side.

He loved weather of all kinds and kept a temperature and rainfall chart in little ledger books for years and years. Why? It just interested him.

When I was in the news business he asked if he could be a weather reporting station and I asked my weather friends to put him on their call list. He loved reporting in. And the weather guys would always mention his name when I was in town. ("Ashley Chapman out in Los Altos says there was an inch of rain there today ...") He thought that part was very silly.

His father taught him about the sky, he said, and took him out and showed him the stars falling in the Alabama night. When my sister and I were children, he would do the same with us and once, when we were toddlers, he awoke us in the middle of the night to see the first satellite go flying across the sky. He told us to remember it and, of course, I always have.

He said the same thing about another star one day, though this star was on a baseball diamond. He took me to see the San Francisco Giants play at Candlestick Park and pointed to a guy standing on the field in a St. Louis uniform.

"That is Stan Musial," he said. "He's getting ready to retire. But he is one of the world's best baseball players. Remember that you saw him play." And so I did.

I have come to believe that time travel is possible and that we do it through these memories of those we love. Everything in life is ephemeral. But memories remain. For my father, the memories he loved best were of his own childhood, and in the last year he spoke often of his own father.

Now I have the means of time travel too. As King David said, he cannot come to me, but I will one day go to him. And in the meantime I will keep all these memories for the days I want to travel back and see him. In these memories he is young, and walking, and his hair is dark and he is kind and funny. To a little tow-headed girl he is very tall. And to see him, I must lift up my eyes to the hills.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
And may you stay
Forever young.

Bob Dylan

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