Poseidon was the god of the sea, earthquakes, and horses. All the things that thunder. The things that shake the ground beneath us and remind us that we can be moved.
Tonight, when I went walking along the sand bar at sunset, I remembered that title “Sunset With the God of Horses.” I started this post last summer, on the night my sister sounded the alarm about how sick Daddy really was. How he wasn’t going to magically get better with some rest and the right care. How Big Gay had been holding on with all she had but she needed help. Last summer, on that sad and confusing day, I took a walk by myself onto the sand bar at Saint Simons Island at sunset to think.
The waves of the rising tide raced each other to the sand. A long time ago, Richard and I took a small boat from Mykonos to the holy island of Delos. I looked out over the dark blue swells of the Aegean Sea and understood for the first time why the god of the sea would also be the god of horses–the movement of the water looked just like the stretching necks of a herd of running horses. Raw power, thundering out ahead of itself.
And here I sat, missing Richard because he was the only other person in the world who remembered that boat ride on that day. How was I going to live in a world without my dad too? The curve of the sand bar and the beach created a narrower inlet that penned in the waves. They clambered over each other, but by the time they reached the shore, they had sorted themselves into regular shapes, like the scalloped lace on a little girl’s collar.
These were the things I tried to think about so that I wouldn’t think about my father dying.
When I was little, I wanted a pony just as desperately as most little girls do. And it seemed like it shouldn’t be all that hard. My dad was a veterinarian. We lived in the corner of a pasture. There was grass EVERYWHERE for a pony to eat. What was the holdup?
One day, we showed up at my dad’s clinic, and lo and behold, there stood a little spotted grey and white pony in the paddock. Daddy called it a “Pony of the Americas” but all I heard was “blah blah PONY.” One of his clients had turned it over to him as payment on a bill.
Can you imagine what my heart did at the sight of that little horse? Daddy said it was a good cow horse. He got up on it and roped a couple of the calves in the pen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My boring old Daddy, who came home every night and collapsed in a chair to read spy novels and fart–riding and roping! Who was this person who could do stuff that we never heard a peep about at home?
Well. We didn’t get to keep the pony. Daddy took it to the sale barn the next week and sold it off for cash money, which we needed way more than we needed a pony.
That night on the sandbar at sunset, I couldn’t get that little pony out of my mind. That little pony allowed me to see a part of my dad I never knew. I saw him rope calves and flip steers in the air like it was nothing. He had this whole other life, of powerful things, that I knew nothing about. That’s what I was thinking about on the sand bar. What else would I never know about my father? Now that we found ourselves at sunset. Sunset and the god of horses.
I sat there by myself and I cried a few tears for the confusion of it all. The end of his life, coming like the relentless waves. The things he had given me, like my love of stories. The things he hadn’t been able to give me, like that pony. All flying away in the wind. All heading to the silent lands in the west, like the setting sun.
Endings and leavings. Here I am a year later, standing beside the ocean with the same questions in my heart.