Sunday, 18 August 2018
Hazy start followed by a bright, sunny day
I woke up to the first hazy morning since last Wednesday. Back in the UK, I moan about sunless days, but the coolness in LA this morning was a much welcomed relief, particularly after a persistent headache that I had yesterday, perhaps from the heat, or it could be the stress from living with my own family again, albeit temporarily.
After breakfast, I drove mum to visit dad’s grave with a bunch of flowers. Eight-year absence meant it took me a few minutes to locate his gravestone in the striped lawn which was always kept respectfully manicured. Mum pointed out that there’s a pot for flowers and I had to rum my fingers through the thick grass blades to search for me. The grass had taken root in the sunken flower pot. I dug out the damp turf with fresh roots like tiny white veins, still warm between my fingers under a cool, grey sky. The soil clung on in my fingernails.
I held the bouquet close to my chest and offered my wordless bye-bye, bowed my head three times. Then it’s mum’s turn. The process lasted longer; she paused for a second or two between each bow. I didn’t know what her silence incantation said. We arranged the flowers to a more cheerful display: purple and white chrysanthemums, accentuated by a yellow rose and a yellow daisy surrounded by green button poms. The bouquet was finally propped upright and cushioned by the spongy root ball that I pulled up earlier.
The black granite gravestone had gone cloudy. I dapped Kleenex with some ice-cold water from my water bottle filled with half ice and half water. Each horizontal wipe revealed a shiny band reflecting the sunshine that was burning through the haze. I breathed into more stubborn marks and rubbed the dirt out of the white carvings. “Beloved Husband, Father and Grandfather” gleamed in the Californian sun. A coyote strolled past us, paused a good ten yards from us and looked in our direction. I looked in marvel; I had never seen a coyote in my life before. Then it strolled off and disappeared behind the hill.
I told mum how I saw dad’s grave from several thousand feet up when I flew over the Memorial Park during my second attend to return to the UK after a two-week delay following the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull Volcano after dad’s funeral. I sat back down, brushing the grass clippings off my knees. We looked into the distance without saying much. I could feel the damp rising through the fabric of my shorts.
Eight years on, I was pleasantly reassured about the spot that we’d chosen for dad. I don’t know how a fengshui expert would have made of the topography, but I loved the fact it was near the top of a small hill behind another hill on which the Chapel sat. Between these two hills sat a water park with a fountain issuing jets like a silvery jacaranda and a rocky waterfall glistening in the sun like cascading beads. Beyond that, it was St Bernardino Valley in a perpetual haze. Here I found tranquility and seclusion protected also by another hill on the left. It still felt as peaceful as it did then this morning.
“Let’s go,” mum said. We rose. Mum put her hands together and bowed. I followed, then we returned to my brother’s 20-year-old Infiniti Q45. The heat was rising rapidly as the haze cleared to reveal the blue sky. In the opposite direction, car after car snaked their way up the winding road. St Bernardino Valley woke in a hazy light. I dreamed about dad before leaving the UK. He was a frail old man but with a soft face and kind eyes. In my dream, I enveloped dad in my arms and asked him if he knew who I was like a small boy clinging to a dad coming home from work. He uttered my name softly in my ear.