I’ve been thinking a lot today about the phenomenon that was yesterday’s total solar eclipse.
How a few conditions had to fall into place at the exact same time for the truly incredible few minutes to occur.
- The moon needed to be near it’s closest approach to Earth.
- It needed to be a new moon.
- The moon needed to be positioned close enough to one of two nodes for its shadow to fall perfectly on Earth.
Not to mention the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, but due to the fact that the sun is approximately 400 times farther away, the two look equal in size from our vantage point.
I mean… holy shit.
Then I thought about my conversation a few days ago over coffee with a friend.
We talked about heavy things. Family things. Cancer, seemingly sudden heart conditions. The fragility of life, the role of fate.
We talked about how hard it is not to believe in serendipitous, dare I say miraculous, moments when you’ve endured certain situations. Situations in which time and circumstance happen to fall in place. Seemingly placed with such care and intent – by the Universe, or God, or whatever or whoever you believe in. Then again we also talked about how hard it could be to believe in those things when you’ve endured the same. It really all depends.
It’s not that I don’t think that my dad is strong – I absolutely do believe he is. But I still don’t sit well with people calling him strong because he survived cancer. Or because he survived his heart surgeries. Because my Godmother was strong as hell. My best friend’s daddy was a force. My Uncle Richard was Superman.
Don’t tell me they weren’t strong. Don’t tell me there is a reason. And definitely don’t tell their daughters that.
I’ll never understand why my daddy is here and they are not. And when the day comes that Daddy is to join them, I’ll likely join their daughters in even deeper hurt and confusion.
I think to myself, though: just as ancient civilizations feared the totality of solar eclipses hundreds of years ago, only with time have we come to learn and understand more about what used to be this engulfing, mysterious darkness. It was later that we came to find that this event would be known to launch new beginnings. And the light would always, inevitably, shine through.
That “new” will still be strange, though. And there’s no telling if and when it will ever stop hurting.
That light that shines through will be blinding at first.
Belief or lack thereof could never serve as a blockade for the tidal wave of emotion that I will inevitably face. It won’t protect me or take it away.
But the moon and Earth and the planets and stars in all their glory and happenstance, keep creating, keep moving. And that has always moved Daddy.
I think his obsession with the moon and its phases came when my younger sister, Tash, had a moon project when she was in maybe second or third grade. They had to go outside and look at the moon every night for a full cycle, and draw the shape on that little worksheet based on what they saw in the sky.
My dad, being the very hands on, enthusiastic parent he was, became very immersed in this project. Tash, being not-exactly-the-most-committed at that young age, would skip out nights. But Dad would be out there every night, regardless. I remember because some days I begrudgingly filled in. But from then on, whenever he saw the moon, he quizzed Tash on what phase it was in. Whether she was 7 years old or 27 years old. “Oh, and Tashie baby,” he’ll say at the end of our group text, “go outside and look at the moon.”
End of June of this year, just a few months ago, Tash told us about her plans to go to France to visit her friend. She also had planned to come home to visit, as she hadn’t been back to California to see our parents since November. “Should I spend Fourth of July weekend at home or in France?” she asked. “Whatever’s easiest, Tash,” I told her. So she changed up her plans: France first, home last.
We weren’t able to get ahold of Tash until dad was already in surgery. When we finally did, it was 9 p.m. across the world. We had her on the phone. We didn’t know what would happen, and she didn’t know what to do. It only took a few words from Mama to send Tash on her way. “Baby, you need to come home.”
Tash says that the shakiness in Mama’s voice – a voice that never broke, that never showed signs of worry, that never wavered – brought her to immediate tears. She and her girl friend threw what they could into her suitcase, and the mad rush to catch the last train out of town was on.
After throwing the bag together and sprinting to station, catching the last train by the skin of their teeth, they finally made it into a cab enroute to hotel next to the airport, where she would catch the first flight out to LA the following morning. When she told me the story I imagined what it felt like to be in that cab: despite being covered in sweat and heart still racing, being submerged in the thick, solemn silence.
Only to be broken by her best friend, pointing out the window. “Whoa, look at the moon!” And there in the distance hung a perfectly crisp, full moon hanging over the Mediterranean sky.
I squeezed her hand tight in that waiting room as she told me the story. Her tears and mine combined, dripped down on our clasped hands. We were waiting for dad to come to after surgery. In the strongest tone I could muster, “Everything happens for a reason, Tash. Everything will be okay.” I was scared as shit.
Just two days prior to holding Tashie’s hands in that waiting room, I looked over at my dad, who looked to be in absolutely no pain. We were on the way to the ER for this “heart thing” that “could be fatal.” But shit, we could have been driving to Sunday brunch. Mom was driving, he sat in the passenger seat, and I rode in the back. We talked more about what the doctors said on the phone, tried to make sense of the medical jargon and Mama’s notes.
“I’m really glad I went to my appointment this morning.” Daddy said nonchalantly, looking back to me over the seat. “I almost canceled it to spend time with my Tashie when I thought she was coming home Fourth of July weekend.”
I wish we could have all been together to see the solar eclipse with dad. But honestly, all of our thoughts and energies and efforts have gone to his recovery. Plus, I knew that 10:00 a.m. is when he’s usually in physical therapy, his favorite part of the day at the rehab center. Though I know he knew about it, and I know he was just as enthralled.
He always took us to see the lunar eclipses. Took us to the highest points of the city to see them with us since we were young. I don’t look up at a full moon, or an-almost full moon without hearing his interpretation. And I know that no matter what, I always will.
There’s another one happening in 7 years. I’m grateful he was alive for this one. If I were a betting girl, I’d say he’ll be around for the next. But whatever happens, whatever the Universe has lined up for us in that time, I know I will hear him regardless:
“Tashie baby, look up at the moon.”