Farewell Summer…Farewell, Dad

About this time last year I sat beneath the shade of a tree in my front yard and devoured Ray Bradbury’s long awaited Farewell Summer (sequel to his outrageously popular Dandelion Wine).  It is a beautiful book–an allegory about youth and aging, life and death, and the passing seasons.

I called my father later that day.  “Hey, dad,” I said, “I think you’ll really enjoy this book.”  I am a book lover and often get too enthusiastic about sharing them with other people.  My father, quite a reader himself, didn’t always enjoy the same things I did but would sometimes humor me by reading one of my recommendations.

On a warm evening a couple of weeks later, my cell phone buzzed.  I squinted at the little screen: my brother, Isaac, calling.  We didn’t talk often–usually exchanged text messages a couple times per week.

“Hello?” I said.
“Hey, Jake,” he said and silence stretched out between us for several long seconds.
“How are you doing, Isaac?”
“Ah, man… brother… Dad died,” he said finally.

The roof and walls seemed to collapse around me in that moment.  I felt as if I had somersaulted into outer space–blind-folded…all the oxygen squeezed from my body.  How could this be?  Last time I talked with him, my father seemed healthy and more peaceful than ever.

But it was.  Like a window suddenly slamming shut on a clear late-summer sunset, my father was gone.

The next few days blurred past on fast-forward.  My wife and I flew back to Idaho and sat with my grieving family.  Together we visited dad’s little cottage–the unfinished project-house he had lived in for several years.

Like my father’s life, this house had been a source of major frustration for him.  He was a fine craftsman–an artist, really–and his sense of perfection drove him to tear everything down to the studs.  Not satisfied with a respectable veneer, my Dad struggled hard with life.  The answers which brought comfort to most men did nothing for him.  Making a living, owning fine things, being a popular person–none of these were his top priorities.  Sometimes his own lack of material ambition bothered him.  I could see that as I walked through his house for the last time.  He had short motivational notes taped to the mirror and the refrigerator.  For the first time I finally understood how hard he had to work at life–things most would take for granted didn’t come easily to my father.

After spending time in his bedroom, looking at his stacks of books and a vase of dried lavendar, I wandered into the kitchen.  The counters were covered with sawdust and tools.  On a chair, I saw his backpack–the same one he used to bring with him when he stayed overnight at my house.  Unzipping it, I pulled out a towel and noticed a book packed in between his folded clothes and shaving kit.

I tugged it free and turned it over.  Farewell Summer lay there in my hands.  I took a deep breath and straightened up.  For just a moment sure I felt Dad’s arm around my shoulders, I let the tears fall where they may.  How absolutely fitting was it that he and I shared this book?  The last one he ever read spoke of life’s beauty, of acceptance, of inevitable change and of death.

One year later, I write these words filled with gratitude for the many lessons my father taught during our time together.  Like seeds dormant until their time has come, these realizations continue to sprout in surprising ways.

I learned from him that Life is, Itself, the deepest meditation, the highest art, the grandest journey…

So, farewell summer…farewell, Dad.  I loved our season together.



17 Responses

  1. Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing from your heart your experience. It touched mine. After my mom and dad passed,I too, had sweet moments of connection and insight–tears, smiles all the memories and richness of knowing the love is still there and never ends.

    • oh Carol! thank you for sharing that… yes. “love is still there and never ends” ❤

    • To the entire Norby family…

      My name is Marty. Your dad remodeled our homes. We always depended on his expertise, his advice and his honesty, And wow! did he produce beautiful results!

      In the course of these many remodels, we had so many chats about all of you. His love and pride in all of you was such a joy to see. You were all blessed to have him as your father. I consider myself fortunate have known him.

      If you have the time, and if you are up to it, can you please email me and let me know what happened? My email is MTorres207@comcast.net.

      i know that his faith was very strong and he now with his heavenly Father.
      My prayers for you all.Marty Torres

  2. I love your insights into the way we live life…we are artists, some more frustrated than others…at various points of bliss and agony. Indeed they plant their seeds in us and we carry them on, nurturing, tending, pruning and culling the best seedlings to leave behind in our own garden legacy…

  3. This evening, one year ago at almost exactly this same time, I was frantically trying to reach him. Calling neighbors, calling the lady who’s appointment he missed, calling the Sheriff. Hoping for some good news, but somehow knowing I wouldn’t be getting any this night. A man as compulsive about being on time as dad was, wouldn’t have gone an entire day without an explanation…to someone. When I called his friend and neighbor one last time and was informed that the coroner would be contacting me, I knew it was finally time to walk a path that had been shown me many times before in my nightmares.
    As I look back over a year without new memories made with dad, I’m increasingly grateful for the ones I’m able to discover from others. What a beautiful memory Jake, and how blessed we are, as our father’s sons, to be able to recognize all that is beautiful around us.

  4. Jacob,

    You could not have picked a more ‘perfect’ day to write this post. September 26th is the final, most significant day in a two week period in our traditions, that honors our ancestors.

    Blessings to you ~ as you honor the memory of your Father in a beautiful way.


  5. Ray Bradberry was one of my favorite authors growing up. I love dandelion wine but must confess that I never read farewell summer, thanks for the reminder and suggestion. I have many fond memories of Tom Nordby and they all involve the attributes of courage, intensity and passion. In a very real way he lives on in each of us through the imprint he made in our lives. Thanks for reminding thank you Jacob for keeping your dad alive for all of us to remember.

  6. Dearest Jacob,
    Twenty-seven years have come and gone since my father died. I remember holding his down vest in my arms, inhaling the last of his scent as if I could make it a part of me. “Who will ever love me the way you did?” I asked the empty room. One minute he was my dad, in the next a memory. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt tribute to your father. You will continue to touch the lives of many.

    With gratitude,
    Michaelene McElroy

    • oh, bless you, Michaelene.

      Thank you for sharing that bit from your own experience, too. There’s nothing quite like losing a father, is there? I sometimes still reach for my phone to call him. Then I remember and smile and talk to him anyway.

  7. Beautifully written. I’m very sorry about your dad. You two had a special bond, and it is so great that he could reach out to you in that way with the shared book that meant so much to you. May his memories and smile be close to your heart always.

  8. I live you, Jake.xx

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