The Essence Of Salt

The ying and yang of salt

I have always struggled with my relationship with my dad. He was a character. Lived life on his terms no matter what or how it affected others. In some ways I envied him and his ability to put himself first. In some ways I pitied him because when you only put yourself first soon others stop including you in their lives at all. My dad wanted to be free. He married an unwed mother(my mom) in a time when I am sure everyone around him thought he was crazy to do so. They went on to have 6 more kids. With 9 people living in a small space, privacy and freedom was at a premium. He was resourceful so he found ways to access and enjoy both of these things. After 45 years of marriage, on my mothers birthday no less, he announced that he wanted a divorce. Loaded up his station wagon and drove away without looking back.

Ah, if only that was the end of the story.

Salt has interesting properties don’t you think? If you explore the makeup of anything on this planet it contains some degree of salt. We can’t exist without it. I have always been curious about Ying and Yang, opposites that attract, cravings for things that aren’t good for you. I often wonder if it’s because of my dad and me trying to come to terms with who he was and my relationship with him. He loved salt. He would add it to almost everything. In his later years, when he was stuck in the hospital with high blood pressure and heart problems he would holler loudly when they took it away from him. My sister and I would sneak in packets of it when no one was looking and he would store them in his table drawer by his bed. He was 89 years old and stuck in his ways, the doctors meant well but didn’t know this man and his love affair with salt.

Salt wasn’t good for him but he didn’t care nor did he want to live without it. He was discharged from his stay and went on to live for a few more months after that. He was a hard man to be around if you had history with him. Yet, he was a fascinating dinner partner or guest if you didn’t know him very well. He was well read and knew a lot of facts about many things to keep the conversation going. A simple operation would have fixed his heart problems if he so chose but he was terrified of going under the knife. His dad had died in an assisted living ward when he underwent a hip replacement surgery. He associated his death with being operated on which wasn’t true but there was no persuading him otherwise. His love affair with salt was the same. It didn’t hurt him he insisted. His heart trouble, blood pressure were all misdiagnosis. He only took the pills because everyone made him…lol. He ate the salt when you turned your back and continued to live as he wanted.

The night he died a few close family were in the room with him. He had mentally checked out earlier in the afternoon in the emergency room but in true dad fashion his heart refused to stop beating. It would choose when to go and prove that the doctors wrong. Salt had not killed his heart. His heart was strong and lasted well into the night.

We chose to have him cremated. Some of his ashes were buried with his brother, some scattered over the prairies where he worked as a lineman for an electric company, some I kept to take to his 3rd wife in California and more we still have awaiting a trip back East to bury with his mom and dad.

The trip to California was something unexpected. I met with his new family that had taken him in and genuining seemed to love him. He had spoke often of the ocean, the beach and the sun. We chose a pier that was close by where I could sprinkle a bit of his ashes to honor where he had been happy.

I was standing on the pier, close to a corner that faced the beach and that had some shelter under a structure. I was looking down into the waves crashing against the logs. The water was almost black in the shadows, swirling up the beach then out again into the ocean. I tipped the container slowly downward and watch the wind catch the contents in a white cloud as it descended. Time stopped just for a few seconds.. the dust drifted aiming for the surface of the waves. The alchemy of the salt water and the porous material was fascinating to watch as they mixed together. The remains landed as a membrane on the black water. Spreading out like a serpent that kept stretching out vertically at first then undulating further and further to form a channel of cloudy white. I watched as my dad seemed to sigh and soak up the salt as if he was regenerating. It might have been my imagination but I thought I saw bubbles popping like epsom salts in a tub. I looked around nervously in hopes no one else was watching my dad reclaim his fill of salt. A white milky image took shape about 6 foot 4 in the water just for seconds before a big wave came crashing down to claim the ghost in the undertow.

Good for you dad I chuckled. I was happy he had found a way to stay true to himself even then. To reclaim a part of himself that he couldn’t let go of no matter what others thought or did.

We are made from this substance, it keeps us alive but also it can kill us if we indulge too much.

Such is the true essence of salt.