Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 30, 2012 5:25PM

No Walk in the Park

Rate: 50 Flag




     The cold has seeped into my felt-lined boots, winkled its way around my ears and down my neck. My fingers are stupid with it, and I'm shivering. Mostly it's the temperature and wind chill.
     I'm wearing a scarf, watchcap and army surplus canvas jacket, out patrolling some of the 15 kilometres of trails through the conservation area. We've lost most of the ash to disease, and I'm looking for deadfalls across the paths or hung-up branches and broken trees that might threaten an unwary trekker.
     Earlier, I was lending a hand where I could -- mostly by staying out of the way -- to repair foot bridges damaged in the flooding last month. A couple were shifted off their moorings and had to be set back in place, then raised nearly two feet with a tractor and what one of my volunteer friends laughingly called "man killer" jacks. Except he wasn't joking.
     And all the while, my thoughts are elsewhere, never a good idea when around such equipment. Specifically they're on the email I got from my brother this morning.

* * *

     It's Dad. They think it's pancreatic cancer. It doesn't look good.
     Well ... no. No, it wouldn't. The only good thing about pancreatic cancer is that it's treatable if found early enough. The bad thing is that it's hardly ever found early enough. His wasn't. The survival rate is negligible.
     But even at 88 and flat on his back, he'd laugh at me about winter, as well he should. I've seen the black-and-white home movies my grandfather made in the Great North Woods in the 1920s, blizzards howling in, two-storey forts, snowballs at the ready to bombard the miners on their way home from work.
     Then winters in not-very-sunny Italy, where he turned 21, and in Holland, doing his part to help kick the Nazis, particularly their vaunted Parachute Regiment and SS Panzer units, senseless every time they encountered the "amateur" soldiers of the Canadian Corps. He knows what cold is, and what I think about it would be risible, if not downright fatuous, to him.
     He's been through much in his life. The motorcycle accident in Holland in May 1945, just after the war ended, that tore up his left leg, leaving his knee held together with screws -- an injury he refused to acknowledge even with a limp. Later, three knee replacements, open heart surgery, mini-strokes, skin cancer, the loss of two beloved wives.
     Never, until fairly recently, did any of it stop him from hunting, fishing, golf. I remember years ago when he fell off his horse at a jump during the annual Labour Day Hunt, separating his shoulder so badly they had to pin it back together. Come back in eight weeks and we'll take the hardware out, they told him. Have to be six weeks, he said, I'm going fishing up north. They did, and he did, after an eight-hour drive the next day.

* * *

     I plod on through the snow, stop briefly to look at a partially frozen East Two Creeks. Funny the currents in our lives, I think. I didn't follow him into the army nor into the company he and my mother created out of nothing in the 1950s nor into any of the service clubs and organisations he supported over the years. Instead, I went my own frequently misguided way. I don't kid myself that it was an easy relationship.
     I didn't inherit his business sense or his love of hunting and fishing -- or even hockey, which he coached for years. And I didn't grow up big and strong like him and my brother and sister. In fact, I was pretty useless at, or at least uninterested in, almost all that perhaps he valued most.
     Almost all. I remember him bouncing me on his good knee as he read poetry aloud, each movement in time to the cadence of The Highwayman or How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix or The Charge of the Light Brigade. He loved words and how they work, and it somehow, somewhere, awoke in me that which I still seek: a rhythm as the words roll across a page.
     Much like the way the current rolls the creek through its banks, I think to myself, slicing deeper and wider each year as the earth is cut away, out to the lake a couple of miles south.
     Much like a life.

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A silver thread runs down deep
connecting all the lives we seek
A savage turn of things for sure
may you turn yet again
towards light
and find the new day bright

You will be inside my thoughts Boan.
Know I care.
You're carrying part of his legacy right here, Boan. This is a beautiful piece, showing us the river of his life winding through your thoughts, including the worry for him, with the immediacy of your own work in the woods. Artful use of metaphor and narrative. Sounds to me if anybody can't beat this latest tribulation of his, he's the one who can.
My father-in-law passed away at the end of last year, he was also a very active and athletic man even in his 80's. My husband always said he didn't inherit the "sport gene" that his father had, but he did inherit his father's sense of humor and way with words and to me that is more important. Wishing the best for you and your father.
Wonderful writing and a touching analogy. Strange how we manafge to go about daily life deep in thought with troubled minds.

I lost my father three months ago, but thankfully not to any nasty disease. I didn't have much in common with him, but do feel much like you in remembering the tough times he went through and wish I'd conversed more with him.

Hope he keeps fighting and strength will guide you.
Beautifully written with so many good turns of phrase, but deeply sad and heartfelt. My dad is a similar age of yours and, as with yourself, he and I are very different in so many ways and it has been fiery at times, but there's always been a real mutual love there.

Your dad sure seems to have a fighting spirit in him based on what you've detailed here. Let's hope that once again serves him well.

As for the cold temperatures, I'm crap when it comes to the cold weather unless I'm super-bundled up ... and offer no apologies.
You know how I feel about this. Our families brings us much introspection and retrospection as your 'walk in the park' reveals. Both father and son are strong, Bo ... just in different ways.

I wish your Dad as little pain as possible with this horrific disease.
Lovely post. The descriptive language is great: I don't know that I've ever seen anyone use "winkled" like that, but it's just perfect. As is the image of "stupid" cold digits. I'm sorry to hear about your dad.
You shared something very important with your father and he gave you that love of the word rhythm that you have learned so very well. Oh, and those last two paragraphs.....absolutely things of beauty, my friend.

~wanders off to throw snowballs at the miners~
Haunting and melancholic, Boanarges. The richness of your language contrasts sharply with the stark, existentialist feeling.
You'll be in my thoughts. ♥
My what a beautiful reminiscence on now and then, your metaphors, apt.
You have his words, his love of the cadence and sound, the meaning of it all. Hoping they hold you for the journey ahead.
Boan, I just caught a typo in Chicken Maaan's comment. Pretty sure he meant "if anyone can beat this latest tribulation of his, he's the one who can." My best to you and your dad.
You didn't follow in his footsteps, but you forged your own, successfully...and I think that's all a great dad like yours would wish for.
I had lunch with my father today. I sometimes try to imagine life without him and his quiet strength. I can't. I watch in amazement as he truly lives each day fully...at 89 he and his bride are heading for a Caribbean cruise. From him I still learn how to really live. We may not have done it their way, but doing it our way is in some way a reflection of how they did. I'm sorry for the bad news, and send you some CA warmth.

Very poetic writing, he would love it.
i first read it on fictionique and loved it there, now here. greenheron has been so calmly telling me that living through this time with someone you love who is dying can be an amazing gift for both people. she's right. i wish you and your dad the best peace.
That was a great piece. I could only hope one of my children could come up with something remotely comparable when I am facing the end...
And you are his hero. Wonderful writing. R
Boan, for the five years that Gwen fought cancer we hung around with people who had pancreatic cancer. My heart goes out to you.

I loved your writing in this piece, particularly the way your brought the stream back at the end. That, and, "my fingers are stupid with it (the cold)." Here in Ann Arbor we have lost all of our ash trees.
A captivating read!

(PS - thick felt inserts are useless in boots. Remove them, then wear two pairs of thick woollen socks. It is the tiny air pockets in the socks that provide insulation. Felt has very little of these air pockets. Make sure those boots are loose! You need air around your feet. Your body heats that air and keeps yer tootsie warm.)

Beautiful, poignant piece. Well done, my friend. I'm sorry about your dad. I was lost for so long after my dad passed away...
I'm sorry about your dad. You've written this so beautifully. ~r
This was deeply moving to read and I am sure the experience of it, something that fills up all your senses. Well done.
So glad to see this well written piece on the cover today, proud Boan, well deserved EP.
Just as stunningly deep, well done and important as it was the first time. Kudos to the salon editor for the good decision to share this with a larger audience.

There are a LOT of us who can relate.

Hang in there,
"The wind was a torrent of darkness among the ghastly trees The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed ..." from The Highwayman
Nice pick by the eds.
I hope you find some peace in writing about this sad fact among virtual friends who care. Peace to your dad and to you, Bo.
rated b1.. happy for the cover placement, sad about your dad
As I wrote yesterday, it seems life seems to be throwing us lemons Boaner. The first one who say's "make lemonade" gets a punch in the nose. Hang in there brother!
This was so beautiful and moving. I hope that there is hope for your dad, in spite of it all, and if he has to leave this life, at least he' really lived it. Not everyone can say that. I'm glad, too, that you can see that though you've chosen a path different from his, there is still something there that he gave you, a very important part of your life and dreams.

Sending healing thoughts and hopes your way and to your father.
I missed this and I apologize. I just saw this on the front cover and read it and send you bouquets of love for the words.
I never turned out like my Dad or Mum.. sometimes I think its a good thing because there's no place like being at home..... with yourself.
HUGGGGGGGGGG to you and red
This is really elegant, Boan. I'm sorry about your dad; I wish you and your family strength and grace.

MOC (the migrating crow)
hang in there; sending energy your way...
Sorry to hear about this, I am glad you can reflect and honor your relationship with him now. It will mean all the world to both of you.
Beautiful, poignant, and every child who loves a parent can relate.
Beautiful work. I think sometimes it is those relationships that are not the easiest that always offer us in some way the best of ourselves. Your father's love of words is clearly present in your work. Even though I don't know you very well at this point, I will be thinking of you in this journey you are now embarking upon with your father...not one we necessarily have much choice in other than to be present in whatever way we can.
Well, you certainly got the hang of rolling words across the page, Boan. This is some classy writing! Sorry to hear about your dad's diagnosis. I hope he is spared excessive pain.

Thank you all, my old OS friends and the new ones who have commented here. I appreciate your thoughtful consideration more than I can say.

Normally, I'd have responded to each comment, but we spent yesterday on a fairly lengthy trip to see him in hospital. We found him -- unsurprisingly -- in a chair in his room, chatting with a charming and lively lady friend whom he'd met during her own convalescence in the retirement home where he's been living. Just the tonic he needs.

The pain, which registers a seven on his personal scale and is therefore pretty severe to us mere mortals, is being managed with Dilaudid, and he's in good spirits, if occasionally groggy.
beautiful example of rhythm as the words roll across the page...thank you.
Beautifully written piece. The Highwayman is one I remember from 7th grade. So sorry for your dad's diagnosis.
A great read, from difficult material. Reminds me why we write ~ thank you.
Happy to hear the update on your dad and very happy for your EP!
Take care.
Really great work Bo and a fine thoughtful tribute. As always my sympathy and thanks for sharing. My Father died 2 years in October and never a day goes by he touches me in some way with a memory. My best to you my Friend........o/e
A different son, and a perfect masterpiece, both lives.