Thursday, March 22, 2007

freesias and chocolate (in memoriam)


The signs are not auspicious. I think I said the same on my very first post after throwing coins for the I ching at new year. Put it down to a melancholic temperament or the fact that my grandmother was a Jungian analyst and believed everything could be understood if only we knew how to read the signs correctly – I’m not called Reading the Signs for nothing, it’s in the blood, you understand. But listen: the cherry blossom that was so full of itself the other day has withered and gone brown as if to reproach me for wanting to hold back the spring. After a merry evening with friends at an inn last night, I and the others saw something wedged between the windscreen and the wipers of a car. It was a dead animal and looked like a weasel. On the drive home there were two more dead animals on the road – a fox and a badger, large and beautiful, curled around itself on the side of the road. Of course, as we know, spring is treacherous, the way it comes and goes leaving fragile things defenceless against the howling cold. Roads, fast cars, are unfriendly to wildlife. We knew this before Bright Eyes. And some people have a strange sense of humour. It was a joke, said the barman about the animal on the windscreen, we know the bloke, it’s ok, he did it for a laugh.

Still, the small birds are flitting around the apple tree and the buds there are tight closed, protected. Just over three years ago, on St. Patrick’s day, my father, son of the Jungian analyst, died in hospital after a stroke. On that day the signs were obscured. I lingered by a florist’s stand and bought three bunches of freesias to give to him because he loved the smell of them, (they reminded him of some childhood years in Capri) and also because they were three for the price of two and he always had an eye for a special offer. He died before I reached him.

He was an actor, more often out of work than in, usually chosen to play the all-purpose wop, spick or dago “baddie” parts because of his dark, sephardic looks, until the last few years of his life when he was suddenly much in demand. As a refugee from Nazi germany he was shipped out to Australia to be interned during the round-up of “enemy aliens” in this country. Actually they tried to ship him and the others out twice and on each occasion the boat was torpedoed, so they gave up and he stayed here. Years later a man who was on the boat with him said that my father had saved his sanity. When it seemed that the end had almost certainly come and they would all perish, my father sat on the floor below deck smiling. When asked what on earth he was smiling at, my father replied that he was thinking about wholenut milk chocolate.
“We’re going to die and you’re thinking of chocolate”! said the man. My father said yes, because it was something he very much liked so it seemed a good time to be thinking about it. Always one for the joke and merry jape, the sweetness of wholenute milk chocolate belongs to him, I think.

Though I didn’t see his death coming, I am sure that he himself had an inkling. Sitting up in the hospital bed, recovering (as I had persuaded myself he was), after a bowl of apple crumble he had enjoyed, he put the spoon into the bowl and looked at me.
“everything has an end", he said, "except for the sausage, which has two ends.”

It would have been about now that we buried him, the weather so rough, hailstones clattering on his box and the freesias we threw on it still closed up. The golden ones on my kitchen table are open, the sweetness of their fragrance intense. I am thinking of him. I am ready for spring.

15 comments:

The Moon Topples said...

I just wanted to tell you that this post is wonderful.

I always find your writing beautiful.

goodthomas said...

Oh yes, very lovely. You remind me how much I love words and the power they have on me. Just lovely.

How does a son of a Jungian analyst become an actor? Wow. Well, I am sure if one was to look, there would be signs.

I hope today, and all your days, are filled with freesias.

That's so pants said...

This is such a lovely story Digns. I love your dad. Bless his dear memory.

Reading the Signs said...

Mr. Moon, thank you. I have in mind also the recent post about your grandmother.

goodthomas, sometimes it's just how things unfold. He was one of a bunch picked to entertain the troops in the war. I love freesias. Thank you.

Ms P, yes, his memory is most precious to me. Thank you.

Reading the Signs said...

My grandmother trained as an analyst late in life - after coming to live in England.

Ms Melancholy said...

Lovely Signs, your writing has moved me again. The sausage story is a total delight. What a good man your father must have been, to carry such humour into the end of his life. I slightly shivered when you said that your grandmother was a jungian analyst. What an incredible legacy that must be. Reading the Signs, indeed. It all starts to make sense.

Liz said...

I just want to say how much I've enjoyed reading this post. Is it possible to hire you to read my signs? I'm considering moving into a very big, old possibly haunted house--but it's so gorgeous! I will do a lot of looking and listening for signs, but maybe you could see something I don't...

nmj said...

Signs, This is beautiful.

And I also loved your description recently of hailstones like hooligans throwing stones at the window.

You truly are a poet.

Reading the Signs said...

Ms M, my grandmother was certainly a reader of signs. I have not particularly followed the Jungian path though.
Yes, the sausage story - I will never get tired of it or the power it has to make me smile.

Liz, you can cross my palm with silver any day my dear. And it's a dead cert that I will see things - don't ask me to do any ghost-busting though.

thanks dear nmj - a tired poet me, having spent a day with beautiful but very demanding niece who is staying here. But it's worth it, as I know you know.

Daniel said...

Ms Signs

What a beautiful post. Your father showed a stoicism in the end that many do not. Reading the Signs indeed - Jungian Analysis - it's starting to make sense. I have to agree with NMJ about hailstones and hooligans a wonderful metaphor, you have quite a poetic turn of phrase.

Reading the Signs said...

hey daniel, good to see you here and thanks. He had a merry and generous soul. I hadn't thought of stoicism, but yes, that too.

Dee said...

This post is so beautiful! Thank you Signs, for putting into words what I could never.

Reading the Signs said...

dee, thank you for this. And welcome.

tpe said...

Everyone seems to be calling this beautiful, Signs. It is beautiful, of course, beautiful and shattering. You somehow manage to cut deep whilst simultaneously applying a bandage. You may even have applied the bandage before cutting.

Everything is recognisable, familiar, as it needs to be, and yet nothing feels right.

Your dad's funny.

Jamie x

Reading the Signs said...

Thanks Jamie - yes, he was a funny, good man.