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A Sprig of Pine: Saying Goodbye to my Dad

By August 20, 2014December 9th, 2014Claudia's Corner

2013 Minimalist ChristmasLast weekend, in a dream I don’t remember completely, a person in a black suit had a sprig of pine tree wrapped in silk and pinned to the suit lapel.  The little bit of pine was the new growth cut off the end of a branch, all bright and green.  I had this dream two nights in a row.  When I woke both mornings, I wondered what it meant, but I got busy with Monday and forgot to look up the symbolism.

Tuesday afternoon, my step-mother called to tell me my father had died Monday night.  He was 89 years old.

The pine tree is a strong Freemason symbol (my dad was a Mason), but it also plays a large part in Asian and Nordic symbolism.  Human veneration of these trees is as ancient as the Egyptian, Greek and Roman gods and goddesses.  In both the Western and Eastern worlds, the pine tree is an image for immortality, and also for creativity, and regeneration.  It can also evoke suffering, dying and resurrection.

I don’t know if the dream was a message, but I would like to think it was.  Tuesday evening, as I lay in bed listening to a talk by Abraham-Hicks, the randomly selected program featured a man dealing with the death of his father.  There are no coincidences, I’m told.

I adored my daddy.  He was wildly creative, a wonderful artist who could draw anything.  His art was free, filled with nuance, but not abstract.  When I was really little, he would carve Ivory soap bars for my bath into bears, cars, boats, cats…beautifully shaped and whimsical at the same time.  He was orphaned at a young age…his mom died first, then his daddy after marrying and having a child with his second wife.  The step-mom took her son and farmed out my dad and his sister to relatives of my dad’s dad.  I remember being told that my dad’s grandmother cut his hair when he was young by putting a bowl over his head and trimming around the rim of the bowl.  I’m not sure why, but that story always made me want to cry.

Daddy went into the Army Air Corps after high school, serving in the Pacific.  After the end of World War II, he graduated from Colorado School of Mines.  As creative as he was, he also had an engineer’s mind.  He could fix or make anything, solve any puzzle, look at things logically.  He had several patents for inventions he engineered in his later years.

He was a practical joker, a man who avoided confrontation, could not bear to go to a funeral (my mother’s was the exception even though they were divorced).  He was honest, ethical, moral and yet left my mom for another woman.

When my daughter was little, she loved Sesame’s Bert and Ernie and had hand puppets of those two characters.  One visit, my dad became a puppeteer and talked to Kelsey as though he was Ernie, her favorite.  From then on it was, “Make the sound of Ernie, Bob!”  (She called both her grandfathers by their first names.)  It seems logical to believe at some point he regretted that first puppet show; my daughter never tired of his play pretend, but he never said no, never seemed impatient.  He always made the sound of Ernie for her when asked.

He loved San Francisco and the sea, the wilder the better.  At one time, he and my mom had ten hummingbird feeders in their yard and he delighted in watching those little miracles.  After my parents divorce, it seemed more and more difficult for us to be together.  Perhaps he felt that I was disappointed in his feet of clay.  I wanted him to be perfect.  He just wanted to be happy.

Losing a parent, though the expected order of things, is difficult.  Even if you don’t spend a lot of time with that parent, when they are living you know they are there.  There is comfort in that and a great river of memories on which to float.

Daddy was ill only a few months and when death came, it came peacefully.  Wherever he is, I hope he is close to the sea in a place filled with hummingbirds near a pine forest.

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