Monday, January 25, 2010

The Star

“With Aquarius as its ruling sign, The Star is a card that looks to the future. It does not predict any immediate or powerful change, but it does predict hope and healing. This card suggests clarity of vision, spiritual insight. And, most importantly, that unexpected help will be coming, with water to quench the Querent's thirst, with a guiding light to the future….

“The Star is one of those cards everyone loves. In every deck, it is usually the most beautiful. It suggests the peace and harmony of its meaning. There is nothing negative about this card, but I think there is a trick to it. Whatever hope, healing, or future it offers, the reader must remember that it might not be immediate. This is a soft card, and like Aquarius, its vision is for tomorrow, not today. That's not to say that it offers no concrete benefits; it is a card that predicts unexpected help, but that help is only the first step. The star only reveals the future. It is up to the Querent to find his way to that future.” -- Aeclectic Tarot, Basic Tarot Meanings, The Star

Today would have been Daddy’s 98th birthday, truly 98 years young. He had really been aiming for 100 but missed my step-mom Noni so much that he was done at almost 92. He and Noni were soul mates. They had been so happy together and he was never the same after she died. He missed my mom, too, but more like the matter/anti-matter drive than soul mates. She had died many years earlier and he had been so fortunate, so elated to find Noni, his third wife.

Daddy always expected unexpected help somehow. He believed in people more than they believed in themselves or him. So he didn’t always succeed in business but he always thought things would get better. At least he did until Noni died and then he was pretty sure they would never get better.

In his heart he was the architect, imagining the future as better and drawing a picture to show how it could be done, even if it was just the county jail or the sewer system for a small town. He wanted something to last forever, something that he made or some evidence of his intent. The engineer in him wanted not to worry about the strength of materials ever. The artist in him wanted the flow of lines to be beautiful.

He could be hard. When I brought home all A’s, he complained that they should have been A-pluses. My mother snorted in disgust saying that the only class he made A’s in was Band. They did not always agree on the importance of full disclosure. He was passionately disappointed in his sons’ refusal to follow in his footsteps with their careers and just as strongly disinterested in his daughters when they did. When I finally cornered him about this seeming anomaly, he said, “You wore the wrong kind of pants.” I had to put it in perspective after the initial shock. After all, he criticized Frank Lloyd Wright because, as he put it, his buildings were falling down.

I tried to console my oldest sister who had missed him terribly, growing up with her mother his first wife of three. If he had stayed, he would not have paid attention to her career and interests either. But of course, it was bitter comfort. He had us all focusing on the star, that wonderful thing that might be that was just too far out of reach. Maybe if we were really good enough, he would value us.

My mother’s basic beef with him was the concrete benefits part, the Big Hat, No Cattle aspect of marrying a dreamer. Apparently for one shining moment, she, a lifelong skeptic of just about everything, the original Jaundiced Eye, bought his castle in the clouds line and married him. It was a decision made later in life for which she was blessed by the arrival of my brother and me. For us, she did not regret it. For herself, however, I am fairly sure she did. She used to complain about his optimism and explain patiently that his best friend in high school was the principal and that should tell us something.

Don’t think that all my memories of him were bad! This is the man who told me Goldilocks and the Three Bears every night for three years upon my behest. He fancied himself a kind of naturalist, too. When we went walking in the Florida woods that were truly jungles then, he brought his machete and a handgun to blaze a trail through the wilderness, carving walking sticks with forked ends so we could pin down a snake if we saw one. I never pinned down a snake, but just having a magic wand made by my ferocious little father made me brave. He could identify birds and trees and whistle like a owl hoot through his hands. He would show us footprints in the dirt and tell us what animal had made the track. He liked to cook and made dinner for us. His special salads were a thing of beauty, with wooden bowls and homemade vinaigrette. His pancakes were legendary overshadowed only by my brother’s legendary capacity for eating them in record quantities. He even let me cut his hair once. Just once.

In spite of his prejudices, he was a gentleman, a military officer and a credit to his branch and rank. To his credit, I never knew about his feelings about Jewish people or anyone who wasn’t what he thought of as white or people who weren’t heterosexual or for that matter anyone who wasn’t a male adult until I was well into adulthood. He cried watching JFK’s funeral on TV with us. He paid for Sister Ethelberga’s trip to Ireland to see her mother for the last time. And he never used foul language.

When I graduated from high school, we determined to move from New Mexico to Missouri so that he could further his education in engineering. He and I were working together to pack my mother’s antique shop, neither of us having fun but both of us determined to get through it. A butcher’s block, weighing at least a couple hundred pounds, fell over and landed on his boot, splitting his toe. We had both been helpless to avoid it. All I could do was watch horrified while his eyes grew large and wet. I thought, this is it. He’s finally going to say “bad words.” I was prepared to catch him if he fell over. But he just looked at me and said very slowly, very softly, very distinctly, “That hurt.” Well, he had had his opportunity, his free pass to let fly a string of cusswords with a perfect excuse and passed it up. We taped up the toe and kept going.

He broke his hip when he was 90 and wasn’t expected to live through the surgery. I had to break the news to the surgeon that he didn’t know my Dad. He lived through it, moved in with my husband and me and learned to walk again with a walker. He loved Strauss waltzes. He liked sending emails. We took him to the theatre, to Yosemite, to vote, to dinner, to parties. But he missed Noni who had died 4 years earlier. She was the breath of fresh air that kept his Colonel’s wings flapping after my mother died. When she died, he did not know why he was still alive.

We had arguments that he enjoyed immensely. He doubted there was an afterlife at all but read the Bible often. I was adamant there is and we wrangled and wrestled. The end came quickly for him and he stuck around just long enough to know that I was there and loved him in spite of and because of himself. When he slipped into a coma, his beautiful petite dermatologist stood at his hospital bed and wept. I was pretty sure Daddy had gotten his heart’s desire, to die with family and a beautiful woman weeping over him. In his last moments, the pink spot where his eyebrow had been and had worn off by doubt and time wrinkled as if just a little startled at what he saw under those eyelids at last. I thought of all our arguments about life after death, his conversion to Catholicism at the last minute, and wondered if that bright star he had always looked for was now a shining light with Noni standing by to hug him and my Mom standing by to explain how he might have done it better. He looked just a little surprised in that last moment. I leaned down and whispered, “Told you!”

Happy Birthday, Daddy! You got your star.

Best wishes.

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