We Wake to Find Ourselves Undone

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Our family’s tradition was to decorate the Christmas tree on my father’s birthday.  As a child, it was always one of my favorite nights.  With perfect recall, my dad would recite Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  

My father no longer lives in a reality that marks time by the calendar.  Instead he struggles to find his way, moment to moment.  He loved Christmas.  I use the past tense because he is not able to remember his loves without my mother reminding him of himself.

It’s a gray, bleak morning in Austin as I ready myself to call my dad to wish him a happy birthday.  There is a sadness in how the dead leaves funnel at the backdoor.  I think of the last line in Jay Hopler’s poem, Meditation

We are oblivious. Then, one morning—there’s a
crack in the water glass—we wake to find ourselves undone.

Happy Birthday Dad and Merry Christmas.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Meditation on Ruin by Jay Hopler

It’s not the lost lover that brings us to ruin, or the barroom brawl,
or the con game gone bad, or the beating
Taken in the alleyway. But the lost car keys,
The broken shoelace,
The overcharge at the gas pump
Which we broach without comment — these are the things that
eat away at life, these constant vibrations
In the web of the unremarkable.

The death of a father — the death of the mother —
The sudden loss shocks the living flesh alive! But the broken
pair of glasses,
The tear in the trousers,
These begin an ache behind the eyes.
And it’s this ache to which we will ourselves
Oblivious. We are oblivious. Then, one morning—there’s a
crack in the water glass—we wake to find ourselves undone.

Meditation on Ruin by Jay Hopler from Green Squall. © Yale University Press, 2006.

End note:  The picture above, of me and my parents, has sat on each of my bureaus since I was sixteen years old.  July 1966 is written on the back in my grandmother Lila’s handwriting.

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