a. letter. (for the) season.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Psalm 23

my dear father,

I want to roast you a turkey with oyster dressing (no sage) as you always wanted it at Thanksgiving.  But you can no longer eat.

I want to sit with you and hear about the progress of your latest writing project – how your book unfolds, surprises you, wakes you in the night.   But you can not longer speak so that I can hear.

I’ve been pondering how we shall celebrate Thanksgiving without the banquet spread, without the lilt of conversation, or a walk to stretch our legs.  Will the warm fragrance of fowl baking, the clatter of gravy being conjured bring you happiness that family is near, or an ache for what you cannot taste, or both?  When I ask, you laugh and shake your head and utter that happy mound of words I’ve come to recognize by their cadence:  “I’m OK.  Don’t Worry About Me!”

I’ve been learning, as you ask, not to worry about you, but to see, instead, what is true.  Which is a generous and lavish hospitality rising in you to set a banquet for me, for all of us.  Not a groaning board of sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie, but a banquet that feeds and delights me, nonetheless.

In the utter poverty of your physical resources, yet you set forth a surprising abundance.  Your humor in all things, your wide breaking-open smile, your sparkling eyes, your wry un-self-pitying comebacks.  When I suggest a date for my next visit, remembering how we used to labor through your complicated speaking schedule to find a narrow window of time, you shrug and laugh and say:  I’ll be here!  When we both go face to face straining hard – you to speak a distinguishable word and me to understand it – and when I fail over and over as I sometimes do – then there is simply a puddle of laughter into which we both go falling.  What else is there to do?  Your humor seasons and tenderizes potential bitterness on an daily basis.  I give thanks for it.

But your work – and your herculean dedication to it – is the meat you offer at this banquet.  How you still chew on ideas, cook up words, feast on the gift of creative endeavor.  You recently called the caregiver at 5:30 in the morning to get up, I hear, because you simply couldn’t wait until 6:00:  sentences had baked in the night, chapter headings were cooked.  It sets before me the sheer aliveness, the purpose, and the consuming sustenance of our creative lives.

I hear that you insisted on voting in person on November 6, with a little help from Andrew to push the buttons.  News of that fed me – how you wanted to exercise your citizenship, weigh in,  still be a part of the count.  How you read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Birmingham News every evening, barely able to hold them in your hands, but ever curious about the world chuffing on beyond the doors you seldom leave.  For that, I’m thankful – your engagement, unflagging, with the whole, and knowing yourself a part of it.

You set a table, my dear father, which I am overjoyed to join this Thanksgiving.  Your humility, your self-respect, your respect for others, your visible love, and your ever-renewing spirit are also there.  Your quiet grief in the absence of your loving wife.  All this seasons our week together.  All of it brings me to thanks.

In and above and around and below:  my deep gratitude for the privilege of being your daughter.

always at your table,

Susan

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~ by Susan on 11/19/2012.

11 Responses to “a. letter. (for the) season.”

  1. I am grateful, Susan and Dr. Hull, for my seat at your table. I feel like I’m over at the “children’s table” — somewhat removed, but those sitting here are observing and taking note of all that goes on in the grown-up universe a few feet away. I’m there, in full gratitude, sharing this bounty, this connection. My mother, too, would always answer — “I’ll be here” — when I announced when I’d be back to see her. And though no longer here in the flesh, she’s here in everything I do. In the dishes I set at the table (her china), in the food I serve (her recipes), in the full heart I bring and offer in thanksgiving.

  2. This is a really fine piece, Susan. Truly Bill Hull is a lavish feast; I always thought so in hearing him lecture, preach, or converse. Now he expresses the plentitude of his person simply by being.

    • yes, I agree. Beautifully put, Catherine. Happy Thanksgiving to you, who is a Bountiful Generosity in motion!

  3. susan, dear one, you bless us so with your words as we have been blessed
    by your dear father’s words. i treasure yours now along with the ones i
    have kept from him. you are both such inspiration to so many of us.
    Giving thanks in all things – you do so well. you have blessed our season
    of thanksgiving more than you know. much love, george and pat scofield

    • Thank you, dear Pat. So grateful for your constant presence in our lives. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours ~ Susan

  4. What an incredible gift!

  5. Beautiful!

  6. What Thanksgiving fare from you, dear Susan! Your loving, perceptive gifted account of the grace you experience is soul food for us all.

    When I led a small group discussion about my book Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – The Poems, in Louisville, KY Nov. 9, I gave your blog address to two people who joined – one whose husband died of ALS and another who’s son was just diagnosed with it. I hope they follow through and avail themselves of the wisdom you share.

  7. I agree with Elaine…”soul food for us all” describes your writings well. It is hard not to comment after reading. I loved when you wrote this about your father: “Your humor seasons and tenderizes potential bitterness on a daily basis. I give thanks for it.” Yes, you are blessed. And through this blog I am blessed by both you and your father, even though we’ve never met.

  8. Lovely Susan. xxoo Leslie

  9. I read everything you post, dear Susan, and am deeply touched by all you write. I echo the grateful sentiments expressed in the responses of others. Thank you for sharing so beautifully and meaningfully. I send much love and many prayers.

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