They paved Paradise

It has been almost five years since my dad died.

He suffered a slow physical and mental withdrawal over the last six months of his life.

I don’t think he was particularly uncomfortable.

He lived in his house, in his wheelchair. He ate his meals, watched old James Bond movies and was a big fan of NCIS.

He seldom spoke. He had never been much of a talker, at least not in my later memories of him, but towards the end of his life he became mostly silent.

I didn’t see him as often as I should have. This is retrospective guilt. Rationally, I don’t think he cared that much.

A few months before he died I was sitting with him in his den. He was in his wheelchair positioned directly in front of the television.

He had his small table beside him, outfitted with tissues, a glass of water, chapstick, a bowl of crackers and the remote control.

He was reading the paper. Holding it carefully in his arthritic hands. He was mostly interested in the financial news. He tracked his stock market investments long after a big win would have made any difference to him.

He looked up at me from his paper to where I was reading on the couch, and spoke to me in his weak gravelly voice.

“I’m sorry for you Mindy. I’m sorry for you and your kids.”

He rattled the paper a little. Clearly the news had upset him.

“We had it good,” he said. “But that’s over.”

That was our conversation. My father was pretty grim there at the end.

But sadly, it is all I can do to keep from having this same sad conversation with my own kids today.

Each morning I open the paper and find myself alarmed, saddened, worried and shocked by the news.

I want to call my kids and warn them.

This week I learned about the possible future dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency. At the same time, I’ve been following the story of the possible selling of naming rights in our National Parks.

These two pieces of information echo each other in a way that sets alarms off in my brain.

What will these actions accomplish?

The continued degradation of our environment as well as the intrusiveness of advertising into what little we have left. I guess the Exxon national park trail wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe we can read signs about the benefits of big oil as we drive between scenic overlooks in our cars.

This morning I read the paper and thought, “I’m glad my Dad did not have to see this day.”

I have tried to be silent. I am trying to understand and be respectful to the half of the country who voted for Mr. Donald Trump for President.

I know there are problems that need to be solved. Even my father sitting silently in his chair could see them years ago.

But I ask this. If we dismantle the EPA. If we unleash the big energy companies to do what they will to our environment, what will happen to our children?

Sitting here quietly in my house, I imagine I feel like my father did.  At least I am still able to wring my hands in dismay.

I’ve tried to be courteous. I’ve worked at being quiet. I’ve taken a wait and see attitude towards our President elect.

I really have no choice. I must just wait and see.

But my waiting time is starting to fill with dark misgivings and fear for the future.

In 1970 well known songwriter/singer Joni Mitchell sang:

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot”

I guess the construction has already started.


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