My dad died on the 13th. He had a fantastic run – 93 years, most of them healthy, still living in the home my sister and I grew up in. We’re all local so when it came time to call hospice, it was easier (as far as these things go) than coping with the situation from out of state. My dad’s caregiver called us early that Friday morning and suggested we get over there quickly. My sister and I were with him all morning, talking to him and holding his hand, until he drifted away. We buried him last Wednesday. I did the flowers, and we read some poems which I’ll paste in here. Mostly I’m grateful (all those extra decades of time!), although I have those pangs of grief when I see something about astronomy or another topic of interest and realize I can’t call him any more to discuss it.
My sister and I were over there rooting around, doing a little necessary cleanup, and I found tucked into a decorative box a small flacon of Hermes Caleche (labeled parfum). I have no idea how it got there, or why; I guarantee you my dad never set foot in Hermes. That flacon must have been there for decades, baking in the heat of the upstairs bedroom. I opened it and threw some on (why not?) figuring it would be terrible, but I held out hope for the base notes.
It’s fantastic. Truly. I’m not even sure I’ve smelled Caleche while paying attention; Kelly Caleche is more “me.” Also looking at their website I don’t see any Caleche parfum available, which confuses me, although maybe they have it in the store? Caleche came out right around the time my parents bought their house, and that wee flacon has probably been there for most of that time (maybe my mom got it from someone in a housewarming gift? She wouldn’t have wandered into Hermes either.)
Here’s the blurb from Fragrantica: “composed by Guy Robert in 1961, this very feminine combination of flower, woods and chypre, whose name evokes the House’s emblematic carriage team, shines through the beauty of its primary ingredients, from the gaiety of its citrus hints to the modernity of its aldehyde notes, from its floral heart embroidered with ylang-ylang, rose and jasmine, to its woody chypre afternote, emphasized by the nobility of iris.”
Smelling the fragrance in the flacon, it’s got a demure, powdery top I’m not crazy about. On the skin, it’s a completely different story. Caleche might have read as “modern” in the early sixties, and it doesn’t read as vintage now, not my well-baked bottle. It’s… there’s something timeless about it. I wish I still had my bottle of vintage Guerlain Chamade to compare, because there’s some venn-diagram overlay with the base, after Chamade’s hyacinth-green topnotes wander off. Anyway, I’m viewing it as one final gift from them to me.
Here’s some of the poetry we read at my dad’s funeral – the first chosen by my daughter, and the second chosen by my dad for the occasion.
|You do not have to be good.|
|You do not have to walk on your knees|
|for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.|
|You only have to let the soft animal of your body|
|love what it loves.|
|Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.|
|Meanwhile the world goes on.|
|Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain|
|are moving across the landscapes,|
|over the prairies and the deep trees,|
|the mountains and the rivers.|
|Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,|
|are heading home again.|
|Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,|
|the world offers itself to your imagination,|
|calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –|
|over and over announcing your place|
|in the family of things.|
— Mary Oliver
Dirge Without Music
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
— Edna St. Vincent Millay, from Collected Poems