Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Persimmon Tree at Eventide.

I remember planting this tree. The bark was smooth and the trunk slim back then, when my children were still small and my wife and I were not long married. Now the coarse surface of my ever hopeful Hachiya Persimmon is gnarled and rugged, its rough trunk twisted and deformed by my naïve pruning experiments. I call this tree hopeful because I hope to reap its fruit, which is botanically known as Diospyros, literally the ‘Fruit of the Gods’ — although Fruit of the Squirrels is more like it. Every season a scatter of pale green blossoms grace it, most resolving into small hard green fruit as the season progresses. For some reason much of that fruit plunges to the ground long before the summer sun settles its brilliant orange into the soft juicy flesh of this true berry. Still, come Fall, there are usually good numbers of not-yet-orange globes hanging from my tree. As the persimmon’s leaves turn rust red and fall, the tree reveals its true treasure nearly ready for harvest. But most of these riches will go to the backyard squirrels that arduously cart them away before they ripen. I’m lucky if I harvest a half-dozen fruit out this great bounty.

Sitting in my backyard watching the earth nibble on the sun, listening to the hum of my beehive overhead to the north and the gentle clucking of my chickens to the south, it’s hard to accept that these days, my days, are winding down. I’ve never hated Winter. Its cold heart instills no fear in me. I’ve never needed Spring’s optimism and rebirth to warm me up. But now I know the passage of Time, and how brief is our moment in the sun, how transient the juicy wet mouthful of the flesh of fresh ripe fruit, and the promise of persimmons yet to come. That said, this Fall it’s good to be home. A hospital is no place to spend one’s waning days.

Everything changes in a moment. It’s a cliché, but true. One moment she felt a small, insignificant discomfort, the next my wife was surrounded by the immediate urgency of triage – an entire team of nurses and doctors singularly focused on keeping her alive. The intense professional commitment of those green-cloaked masters of the mystery of medicine was both reassuring and frightening. That she might need their undivided attention would have been a terrifying experience, if she had been in any condition to be cognizant of their ministrations. But cleverly they had already administered a simulacrum of morphine into her bloodstream to ensure that her growing awareness of this inconceivable pain was stunted. It wasn’t that she couldn’t feel the pain, it was there like an attentive lover who wouldn’t dare leave her side, but it was obscured in a fog of false memories and misunderstandings. “Where am I?,” she asked. “Why can’t I just go home?”

With her pain, if not abated at least misplaced, it was hard to explain to her why all this medical ritual was necessary. “I don't want to continue to participate in this medical test,” she actually said. She didn’t say: “Have I, through some deviousness, acquiesced to their treachery, now allowing them to perform unimaginable atrocities on my being, or am I still dreaming this?” but it was there in her eyes. My wife of 33 years was in the Emergency Room with a life-threatening condition brought on in a moment without warning. What I called my life was fluttering like a brown tree-dropped leaf lifted out of reach by a late summer gust.

Day slid sloppily into night and back into day again with only the bright lights of a three-ring circus, and lion tamers, and sword swallowers, and giant flaming rings of fire to divide one moment into the next, her circus tent from the one next. It’s 2 a.m. in the I.C.U. Time to light up tonight’s big show with gurneys and bells and beeps and shouts and screams and tubes running anywhere and everywhere. Incomprehensible growls and guttural grunts fill night’s darkest hours, for hours on end. It’s 3 a.m. Wake up, it’s time for your pain-pill. Do you feel any pain? It’s 4 a.m. Here’s a needle, let us jam it straight into your heart or maybe your brain. We will suckle on your fever dreams. It’s 5 a.m. Are you hungry? You can’t eat. Would you like some chips of ice? It’s 6 a.m. Time for Rounds. Mystery performers crowd the carnival, vying for attention, ignoring the dying. Who could know what transpires beneath the flesh in such circumstance? There, just under the skin, that which is most vital lays hidden from view, from knowing.

Was she there one day or one month, or was she even there at all? I could not say and in the end it did not matter. All the sacred ceremonies and magic concoctions were for naught. As it always is, in the end, it is just one person and the void, staring at each other, waiting for the unimaginable. In the end the professionals surrendered their powers, took off their costumes, put aside their potions and magic rattles and waited for whatever came next. In the end, it was time to go home.

Sitting in the eventide underneath my beautiful persimmon tree with its large, hard, shiny leaves of dark green, I listen to the chickens squabble, each testing the temporary supremacy of hierarchy in the henhouse while wild birds twitter and flitter from branch to branch, sneaking to steal such chicken scratch as might allow them to raise just one more fledgling to feather this year. It’s late and soon the moon will lord the night sky but while there’s still some sun left in the day the last flight of bees scurry from flower to flower in a mad dash to collect a little more nectar before they too must surrender to what bees call sleep. Their work was fruitful this year. The persimmons hang heavy and green from my tree. With some luck I might taste this harvest, too. I reach out and take her hand. It is good to be home.

©September 6, 2010 Fred Dodsworth


Blogger William J Earley said...

Fred, that was beautiful. You are both lucky to have each other and we are lucky you share your soul with us.


7:07 PM  

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