“The Dress and the Snake”
The time to watch a sunset is twenty minutes. Is it longer in Heaven? Are the colors the same? My heart flattens, flutters and it is hard to talk. Speaking now, I feel as if ropes have caged my heart and made me sad.
What is underneath this sadness? Fear? Anger? I am not sure. My soul seems to be standing. Everyone thinks I am holding up well. So brave.
I feel weak, breathless at times
I’d like to run until I reach Egypt
But I have the responsibility of staying.
This coat I wear does not want winter to come. The naive mind of spring bursts in my heart. Death has no colors.
It made me feel secure thinking Dad would live on like Su Aht said.
“No die. No die this year.” Then, the re-calculations, like a mortality math question.
The place where my wedding dress is being made is attached to an oriental grocery store. The sounds and scents are strange. As I now have been in there many times, I have become friends with Su Aht – my tailor’s mother and teacher. She has noticed my ripe tears and wounded heart. Her English, non-existent, folds many layers; we speak silently.
Su Aht asks, What year my dad was born. Her daughter translates in Thai.
“How old is your dad?”
“74,” I say.
“What year he born?” Pantanee translates to me, as Su Aht looks wise in the eyes.
I reply curiously, “1929.”
Su Aht sits in her corner and pulls out her Thai zodiac book, thumbing through the pages. She settles on a page with the Chinese zodiac. Click, clack, cluck. She counts in Thai, her finger running in a circle. She does it again and again circling the circle with her fingers. I nibble on the peeled apple slices she offered. Their sweet taste teasing me.
She looks happy; she says with a smile, “No die. No die this year.” Then blurts out more in Thai. I say to Pantanee, my tailor, “We need a translator here. She might be on to something!”
Pantanee chats with her friend in English on the telephone. Whispers of conversation blurt out. “He’s no good for you.” I hear her say in English. She comes over and tells her friend to hold on. Pantanee and her mother, Su Aht, speak in Thai, counting, clicking. Strange sounds emerging from their tongue. Mother tongue melting.
Pantanee starts clicking, clacking, counting. They both look up somber, sad as if they have bad news. “This is the year of the snake to die,” Pantanee says with quilted accent thick.
Su Aht speaks softly in Thai. Optimism erupts from her eyes. Pantanee translates her mother’s thoughts, “If he can make it past this year, he will have more years.” I nod and think. I really don’t know much about the Chinese zodiac, but think of it in a positive way.
There are pictures hanging above Su Aht. I was looking at them as she figured my father’s cycle in this world. She caught me look at the elder monks dressed in orange-red robes. They looked like Gandhi. She turns in her chair motioning with her hands clasped as in prayer. I say to myself, “I am open to many things, but please don’t make me pray to this Gandhi like person.” Then Su Aht reaches for a mango.
She goes on counting and clicking as I slice mango. She offers a sauce to dip it into. I taste to be polite. It is gross.
I look at my dress and see so many things embroidered in it – culture, love, tradition, my father, my mother, my sister, my friends, my love for Rich, my future.
The dress hangs in the tailor from Thailand’s shop exposed to so many things. When I step into that dress next Sunday and walk down the aisle with my father I hope Dad will walk towards another year, but accept it perhaps is time for this lovely snake who I call Father to swim to Heaven.
Author’s Note: I wrote this essay when my father was ill with cancer in 2oo3. I was married twice; the first time was upstairs in my parent’s bedroom on November 23, 2003. My father was not able to get out of bed, but he was able to “walk me down the aisle.” It was a beautiful wintry day in Wyoming. A blizzard blanketed everything with several feet of snow the night before. The snow glistened and looked like magic sugary crystals. It was a beautiful day. Today is the anniversary of his death, December 11, 2003. December 10 and 11 are very hard days for me. He passed away in the middle of the night. My mother held his hand as his pulse quickened. She had gone downstairs to get him a fresh popsicle. He sucked all the juice from it in one gulp and looked at her, as his pulse quickened. What a brave woman she was to be able to endure that moment for him. I would have lost it. But my mother is an amazing person who loved him. They were soul mates.
The second time I got married was after my father passed in July 2004. It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony (photo at the top is from that wedding.) We had a good time. I will post photos and write about that wedding in another post. I was very lucky to be able to marry my soul mate twice.
I think of my father tonight, as there is a lunar eclipse. Many blessings to you all if you are struggling with the loss of a loved one or the anniversary of a death of a loved one. The holidays shove “happiness” and
holiday cheer up our asses, most of the time unwillingly. I am super Bah Humbug during this time. I shake it off in about a week. You’re not alone with your sorrow. Just know that.