Odin is the father of the Norse gods.
He has one eye because he traded the other one for wisdom.
At his shoulders sit two ravens, Thought and Memory.
Every day they fly abroad listening to what happens in the world, and
every night they whisper the news into Odinís ears.
My father died on September 9th, at 7:30 in the evening.
It was dark outside the hospital window and there were only dim lights in
the room. We sat with him, holding
on to him, all during the long evening until the light was gone and he was gone
too. He was surrounded by his three
daughters, his three granddaughters, a son-in-law and the boyfriend of one of
the granddaughters. As he died we
all said the Lordís Prayer together. As
his life drained away, our senses became more intense, until at the end the room
seemed to be vibrating with waves and clouds of feeling: love and sorrow and passion for him and each other.
Then the wave ebbed and we were left on the shore, looking
across the spaces that divided each of us from the other.
He was happiest on his small sailboat
on Menemsha Pond, and for many years he sailed almost every day during
the month of July, and sometimes in September too.
Only thunderstorms and hurricanes stopped him.
When he died the farmer said, Heís sailing up to heaven, and that
seemed like a good metaphor for his leaving us.
We saw the bright sky, blue as his eyes, which he could always discern
behind the deepest cloud.
Metaphor is a way for me to understand the world and how it works.
It lays a net of meaning over the inexplicable, terrible, beautiful,
random happenings of this life. It
comforts me with its connections, promises a path and a place to go. Metaphor lights the darkness of space and the terror of
We buried him in his Norwegian sweater with Oden and Frigg knitted into
the front and back, and the great ravens, Hugin and Munin, on either side.
We put a Norwegian flag into the coffin, and some of my motherís ashes
in an envelope, a sharp knife, a clean handkerchief, a copy of the Wall Street
Journal, some potting soil and a packet of yellow tomato seeds, a small bottle of gin, one of his beloved pipes.
Last Christmas Eve, my father and I sat in the Great Room by the fire,
under the tall Christmas tree, glimmering with ornaments from all our
childhoods. It was dark except for
the firelight and the lights on the tree. He
talked about his life and what was important, memories of his family, escapades
he had gotten into with his bad-boy brother Ralph, the steadiness and kindness
of his brother Erling, his Uncle Karl coming back from working in the Seattle
railroad yards during World War I. He
said he could see his face ďas clearly as
I can see youĒ. And he talked
about his mother. We never had very
much, he said, but we had everything we needed.
We had each other. She made
sure we had enough to eat and clothes to wear and we were warm. Your family is
the most important thing of all, he said. He talked and talked, more than I had
ever talked with him before in all the long years, and the next night, Christmas
Night, he wanted to do the same, and we sat again and again he talked.
My father was born blind in his right eye.
In the spring of this year I lost the sight of my right eye.
Metaphor comforts me, as I sit by the Christmas fire and hear the whisper
of Hugin and Munin, Thought
and Memory. We donít have very
much, they say, but we have what we need. We
have each other.