Covid Memorial Project

I signed up for a slot to participate in our Covid Memorial Project.

The Covid Memorial task?

Mindfully, meditatively count 1500 stones as you place them into a jar. They represent lives lost to Covid in the United States. Then, place the jar of 1500 stones on one of the benches in our Peace Meadow.

I could tell you so many things about my church, this project, and the Peace Meadow, but you can find information in the links I included. This is an account (and accountability) of my personal experience as a participant.

I love this memorial project for many reasons. I stink at meditation. I knew right away that this was the perfect meditative project for me, because it involved movement, I didn’t have to sit still. I would be counting, sorting, filling my jars. I’m grateful to those who conceived this project.

I also love the project because, in this endless era of pandemic and political helplessness, I have something I can do: honor those we have lost.

Breaking the rules

I read the instructions on the table: count the stones into the jars, then carry the jar to the Peace Meadow. I deviated slightly, but I felt comfortable deviating towards comfort because, if my church does one thing well, it’s accept and allow for difference.Piles of dead stones

Instead of counting into the jars, I counted into piles of ten, much like I would count out coins when I collected and sorted coins, triggering pleasant childhood memories. I lined the stones up in columns of ten. I sorted 15 columns of 10 piles of 10 pebbles for one jar with mostly my dominant hand and fingers, then I moved to the other side of the table and counted out piles of 10 with mostly my left hand.

Spur of the moment decision.

I’ve been writing ten lines a day with my left hand for a few of months. My left-hand writing (left handwriting?) has improved a bit, but that’s not the point. I’m trusting the process to trigger something within. The shift resembles, for me, the walks along the same route but the opposite way. When I make the loop through my neighborhood or through the farm fields the “opposite” way, I see different parts of homes, notice different trees and structures. I feel a difference. Sorting the stones for the dead of Covid with my left hand gave me pause. I felt the loss from a different angle.

This is for me.

Counting complete, I placed my two jars of stones on the benches, took some photos, looked for angles. I don’t have anything special to share except that these stones represent real.

People I know are represented in these jars. The jars only hold the dead. I’m not sure my church campus could contain all those who have suffered and survived.Tears in a jar of stones

I don’t expect to change hearts of deniers, convince doubters, or corral troops around a cause. But I can do this. I can honor those we lost. I can be mindful of those who suffered and survived. I can hold up my child and his partner as they recover from the disease, my parents as they receive their vaccines. I can use both my right and left hands to embrace the losses and challenges. I can commit my restless body to an hour of remembrance and prayer.

As I took a few photos, I noticed some jars held condensation. I prefer to see these drops as our collective tears.

May those who were lost and have suffered loss during the pandemic be healed and remembered by our collective tears, by our mindfulness, by our commitment to do better, be better, and be present for each other.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2021

Connection

Sometimes the best part about putting yourself out there is being seen by friends with whom you thought you had lost touch forever.

Note to self: The best part is always the Connection.

1984 World Fair in New Orleans

Sure I put myself out there because I want to find the perfect agent, garner the publishing deals, receive the kudos, be listed on the lists.

But this is sweeter.

On this New Year’s eve, a comment on my blog from a dear friend with whom I’d lost touch brought me to tears. The tears were not for the content of the comment. Tears of joy for the re-connection. “The perils of Pennie and Patti” she notes in her comment because our connection is study abroad and a novel-worthy Youth-Rail travel adventure through Europe.

Put yourself out there for the “money” but mostly put yourself out there because the unexpected returns can be delightful. I look forward to catching up with Patti in 2021. Maybe I’ll be inspired to write about our epic journey through Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and Greece. We missed a few classes but we learned so much more than the tired professors could have taught us.

I continue to learn (to be taught!) how important our connections to friend and family are.

Thank you for reaching out Patti!

Happy New Year, y’all!

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2020

Don’t blow the gift of 2020: Reflect

Whether or not you celebrate a specific holiday, the long nights of this season are perfect for reflection. Many use these dark, cold nights to reflect on what they did with the 365 days of the year.

How did I grow? What have I lost? What have I gained?

In keeping with all things 2020, we get an extra day this year. We can reflect on 366, not just 365, days. 8,784, not just 8760, hours.

Let’s not blow that extra day.

Sure, 2020 is a thief. Pandemonium. Maelstrom. She has taken away many things, many lives, with another eleven days (264 hours or so) left to wreak havoc. But perhaps, she is giving one thing back: a chance to reflect. To truly reflect.

This year we have permission to go small and go within. We have a pass on the frazzle and the bustle of the season. We can stay home and stay well.

Let’s not blow this “down” time as we isolate to love each other better. Let’s embrace this parting gift, this time to reflect.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2020

 

The moon does not fight.

The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.
Deng Ming-DaoEveryday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony

“The moon does not fight.”

Condemn and correct? Or observe and allow? Call out and judge? Or model and shine?

The process is slow, sometimes blistering as I squirm in place, swallowing the dismay: “But, but… you’re wrong!”

“It attacks no one.”

But, if I let the words loose, if I point the finger, I’m no longer observing and allowing. I’m no longer a model for the change I crave.

Some of you reading will judge me, you might even call me out with a “But you MUST call them out!”

Defensive blisters may form on my tongue, protective tears might well, but I see you too. Without judgment.

“It does not try to crush others.”

“But you must…!”

“Must I?”

I need the sun, but the moon heals me.

I’m grateful for those who turn over the tables in the temple, who stand up in public places against aggressors and institutions. While your light sets the dirty pages aflame, there is also a place for the quiet ones who reflect that light, who softly reach out to stand up as an ally, who work diligently in a corner to gently influence those who aren’t.

Both paths have their challenges. The sun must work tirelessly, and even as you rest, set for a few hours, your work is never done. The moon waxes and wanes. Sometimes I turn away, go within, to examine an aggression or injustice. “Is that also in me? How do I fix that in me?”

“It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences.”

This is hard to write about because my words —the place I’m claiming for myself— might be dismissed as virtue signaling. So, I’ll be clear. I’m not virtuous. I screw up this moon journey on a regular basis, perhaps every day. Walking the tight rope between controlling the things around me and allowing them is treacherous, and I’ve lost my footing, spun off the tight rope many times.

This is not an apology. I feel called to write about this because I’m not the only one whose eyes sting when my quiet path is misunderstood as complicity, when I’m accused of not showing up properly because I’m not turning over the tables in the temple.

“What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore?”

Sometimes the protest looks like the tide, hard to notice. Not a pointing finger and a sign waving above the angry crowd, but the hushed hand that reaches out to help the fallen.

Sometimes the call to justice looks like me. Not a take down across the Thanksgiving table, but the question that moves the aggressor to look within and question himself.

“The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.”

Sometimes change is a gentle shift, not violent slip of tectonic plates.

I’m imperfect at my mission, but I will stand faithfully as a model. I intend see all of you, really see you, and look for that part of you within me. I will reach within for the light we all need.

The moon does not fight, it does not attack, but it moves oceans. Quietly. I love the moon, I chase her through the fields. The moon is my model, my authenticity. I will quietly keep this course.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2020.

Collapse the Box

She put me in a box.

She posted a message on social media about “those people.” My people. Me! I considered canceling. I’m not going.

Before her post, I thought we were in the same box. She’s in that box?

I shouldn’t go. What if the boxes come up? Damned boxes.

But are they damned?

Boxes help us.

They sort and organize our lives and belongings. They safe keep keepsakes, store the out-of-seasons.

Boxes are essential.

Those virtual boxes in our heads, in our textbooks, on spreadsheets, on reports —categories, classes, types, styles…— this is how we sort our world and each other, for a better understanding.

  • They’re paramedics. They save lives.
  • Those are invertebrates. They have no backbone.
  • He’s a math teacher. He explains numbers to students.
  • We’re professional soccer players. We have strong legs.
  • This is a dangerous narcotic. Keep it out reach of the children.
  • She’s Hindu. She believes in reincarnation.

But boxes can blind us.

  • She’s a Republican.
  • She’s a Democrat.

I saw her political box. It wasn’t mine. Should I go?

What I know

It’s not like I don’t know people in that box, the other box. I have family in that box.

  • I love them.
  • I spend time with them.
  • I sit at their table.
  • We talk.
  • I know them.

And there it is. I know them. I know that box is only part of their story, I know they are more than the box we use to understand their politic. I know they are much better than any box of politic.

The Golden Rule

I was bothered when I saw how her meme boxed us, made assumptions about me. I considered canceling. But I want to go! I don’t want to cancel.

I turned the boxes over with the Golden Rule. I don’t want to be confined to a box, only understood within that box. Why would I do that to her?

I went. We met, we spent time together, we sat together. We didn’t talk about those boxes, but we talked deeply. She is much more than her box of politic, and I am more for having gone. I gained a friend.

Boxes can be good, but we shouldn’t allow boxes to limit our love and understanding.

Stepping outside the box

These are difficult times. We can stir the difficult pot or step outside the box to be the change, to make a difference. We can’t control others. We can, however, choose how we interact with others.

I choose love over the boxes. I want to be heard, but first I must listen. I want to be seen, but first I must collapse all the boxes.

The process is slow and sometimes painful. Listening and seeing to make a difference, to be the change, requires faith and love, but the magic of that slow alchemy is worth it.

I’m glad I went. We saw each other. We heard each other. We didn’t kick around our boxes of politic this time, but I think we’re in a better position to hear each other when we come round to that.

©Pennie Nichols All Rights Reserved 2020

A good story

We all like a good story.

The power came back on one hour after we cranked up the new generator, just as we were falling asleep, just before midnight.

“Oh no!” Steven groaned next to me.

“What’s wrong? I thought you’d be happy the power’s back on.”

“But we just bought the generator.”

Steven and I had just “buttoned down the house” for a night without power, floating on the sounds of generators and the refreshment of the gusts of post-hurricane winds. Steven is a self-professed AC addict, but his response was “Oh no!” when our salt lamp lit up.

Sometimes it’s not about the good fortune but rather what we’ve prepared ourselves for. If we prepared ourselves for a storm, we expect a storm. We’re not upset about averting damage. And yet, the relief that the storm missed us or was a dud arrives with a vague, irrational sense of disappointment.

It’s human nature. We don’t want the devastation. “Oh no!” We just want a good story to tell. You can fight me if you think you’re above that, but I’ll win.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2020

Persimmon Lessons

Sometimes we learn lessons from teachers. Sometimes we learn persimmon lessons.persimmon tree

The fruits we bear

The persimmon tree is a slight thing. Most years, the limbs —strong old-lady-finger things that look more delicate than they are— hold just the weight they can bear, bending in all directions under the weight of the dense fruit.

You mustn’t pick the persimmons early because, ick! They’re like sticky chalk on the tongue. So you watch the limbs bear their limit. Some mornings, you might find she released a few orange fruits on the ground. But she mostly carries the load.

Last year, 2019, Miss Persimmon had a crisis. We’ll never know the story of her heartache. The three or four (maybe many more) years prior, the tree was burdened, straining to hold the fruits. Then, ugh. Last year, unapologetically, “This is all you get. One persimmon and a bird’s nest.”bare persimmon tree

I haven’t been to the farm as often this year due to Covid, so I haven’t been following Miss Persimmons’s progress closely. But oh my gosh! When I visited mom and dad last weekend for dad’s birthday, this is what I saw. That’s the same (and a single) tree. And keep in mind you, they’ve already picked a few. loaded persimmon tree

Metaphors and lessons

Metaphorically, more branches than we can shake a stick at in a post.

  • She rested then she could?
  • She felt embarrassed for the one persimmon so now she’s showing off?
  • Persimmons and persistence?
  • or maybe Persimmons on the dangers of persistence?

But let’s face it. This right here —the tree’s exuberance— is ridiculous. This year is ridiculous.

Whether she rested and now she can (when hardly anyone can!) in 2020 or whether she’s showing off just because it’s 2020, she overdid it. She bore more than she could carry alone, more than she should carry alone. In her exuberance to give, she found herself in desperate need of support.

Fortunately, mom and dad love her.

For me, the lesson is not about not giving. Giving is beautiful, but give what you can. Comfortably.

Or maybe the lesson’s about your support group? If you can’t self-regulate, if you can’t be reasonable, make damn sure you have a Mama and Papa Nick on your team to throw some support under your burdened limbs when you’re holding out your gifts.

Maybe the truth nugget is that my family needs to learn how to treat a persistent persimmon tree.

I’m not done chewing on this, but the lessons in the persimmon tree splay in more directions than I have the energy or capacity to explore in a blogpost.

Maybe one of those persimmon lessons speaks uniquely to you. If so, take it and sit with it. But don’t pick the fruit too early. Seriously. When it’s ripe it’s yum. But too early, just ick.

©Pennie Nichols All Rights Reserved 2020

Love Out of Love

Today would have been our 32nd wedding anniversary. But we fell out of love.

We’re human. We’re imperfect, and about half-way through those 32 years that might have been, we divorced.

Our status changed, and we tick Divorced on forms now, but that status, the divorce, didn’t define our relationship. Love, even when we were out of love, defined us.

Love out of love

My ex husband and I fell out of love and after almost sixteen years of marriage, we finalized our divorce. We went through rough patches during the transition, but even those rough patches didn’t define where we would land after we spun out.

Love did.

NOTE: I’m not sharing our story prescriptively. Our story can’t be every divorced couple’s story. I’m not suggesting that this is the better path, the good vs. the bad journey. This is not a lesson. I’m sharing this because the dates and numbers bring our story round to my heart. I’m sharing because I’m grateful.

I’ve written about this before, but today the numbers compel me to revisit. Almost 16 years of marriage. Just over 16 years divorced. Today would have been our 32nd anniversary. We lost something, sure. We lost a lot, but I learned to carry love forward and allow it to redefine itself. I’m sharing our story again because I’m still grateful.

Our story

I’m grateful for many things, but the first swell of gratitude to spring from that well is our children. They are the tether, the balance, the bond that helped redefine my feelings for and relationship to my ex. Thanks to them, I can make space to celebrate some of the good things these 32 years allowed, starting with the wedding.

We were married under two ancient oaks on my college roommate’s parents’ property, Deux chênes, where the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag alongside the cedar of the Lebanese flag hung on the gates to welcome guests. I’m grateful to Nora and Gerald for hosting our quirky wedding.

I’m grateful for my friends (former roommates) who stood with me for the ceremony. I’m grateful for all the family who attended and participated: my uncle who married us, my cousin who gifted us with hundreds of photos, my cousin who styled my hair, my cousin’s son who carried the rings. I’m grateful for my parents who supported me as I took that adult leap.

The day wasn’t perfect. August in Louisiana! A deluge just hours before the outdoor nuptials soaked the grounds. My dad had to find a giant swath of green tarp post haste. The pre-ceremony included meltdowns and nerves. Post ceremony found me standing in ants for a photo, then spending some time kicking and writhing as they scurried up my wedding gown. To seal the imperfections, when it came time to sign the certificate, we learned that ministers don’t bring the marriage certificates to the wedding. Oops!

You’re not really married, my uncle sighed.

It wasn’t perfect, but the things I remember most are the beautiful moments. The lush air as the ceremony began. The belly dancer who led us away post vows. The dresses my mom and my mother-in-law wore. The belly dancing during the reception. The food. The laughter and joy of family and friends.

Celebrate the love

I lift up those good memories of our wedding day. I also celebrate the 16 years inside the marriage: the adventures of raising three children; our two homes; the mutual friends we made along the way; the meals we shared as a family (chicken rice again, Baba?!) and with friends; the wine tastings; the vacations on a budget; the church we found together.

The church was one of several sacred spaces we discovered together. When things fell apart, the path through was a memory from that sanctuary. Years before the divorce, I sat in our church when Sharon Williams Andrews delivered a sermon on forgiveness as a guest minister. I can honestly say that her words took purchase in my heart and carried me through many moments of the 16 years after the divorce.

Post divorce, my ex and I moved on. We found new partners, new places, new circles, new journeys separate from each other, yet made space for love on the other side of being in love. We come together for holiday and special occasions. We’ve even squeezed in a beach trip together.

We’re divorced for many reasons. We made mistakes. We weren’t a match made in heaven, but we’re happily divorced for a more important reason. We allowed love. And reflecting on that, I would argue that, despite the divorce, I chose well when I married my ex.

He’s a keeper.

My dad called last week to tell me what a wonderful visit he and mom had with my ex. My ex went to the farm (bearing groceries as usual) two weekends in a row, not for a special occasion, not because the kids were there. Love carried him there. He knows my parents are limping through these months, mom’s Alzheimer’s and dad’s heart intensified by the isolation of COVID. He took time, spent time, cooked and visited. Love.

My grandmother would have said, “He’s a keeper.” Except I didn’t keep him. 

Love still wins.

We had a marriage that didn’t last, but the divorce didn’t define us. The divorce didn’t wreck the relationships that become entangled in a marriage. We still share love for each other’s parents, we still have mutual friends, and we are still a family.

Falling out of love didn’t define us. Love did. Love wins, and I’m grateful for this twisted road we took to know love.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved 2020

 

The flow: I’m here for it.

Sometimes I side-eye my neighbors with envy when I work on my yard. One neighbor’s yard is mostly concrete and structures, no trees. The other yard is mostly grass, just one tree interfering with the flow of the mower. My yard is a tangle of spaces, the pond by the patio, the tattered greenhouse and giant philodendron in the middle, the fire pit, palm trees, the picnic table, pines, gardenia bushes, vegetable and flower beds, fig trees, the hill in one back corner, and the decrepit shed in the other. There are no straight paths for to flow the mow.

Crooked paths

I’ve never taken straight paths and sometimes I side-eye those who do with a little envy. The straight path seems much easier when I’m in the thick of a bush yanking at Virginia creepers that have climbed twenty feet (Virginia, please come collect your creepers and take them home).

I don’t hate my crooked paths. Most days, I love them. They’re organic, mysterious, and, in unexpected moments, healing.

My crooked paths are complicated by my disinclination to domestic tasks. I delay the exhausting, thankless tasks like trimming the edges of the lawn or chasing the dust that collects on the surfaces of my home. Why bother when a week later the edges are ragged and the dust has collected again? Some might judge me for it, but, even as an adolescent, I am happiest sitting in my sacred space, exploring, dreaming, delighting in the words, in the markers and colors, in the creative opportunities before me.

The neighbors’ yards are disciplined, controlled. Easier to maintain. The space might seem beautiful and peaceful on days when I drag my mower around impossible edges and swear as I yank weeds from the fence, but they don’t feel sacred to me. Where’s the whimsy, the fun, the flow? I hope the neighbors have more fun than their beautifully kept yards feel.

Disciplined control versus organic flow

My life is a testimony to going with the flow. I could spin my story many different ways.

  • She didn’t have any backbone, so she just stumbled from one thing to the next.
  • She let the flow of life lead her through beautiful years of education, relationships, and careers.
  • She could never make up her mind.
  • She is good at taking care of what is before her and dealing with chaos.
  • She never planned for the future.
  • She lived in the present.
  • She’s lazy.
  • She’s creative.
  • She’s undisciplined.
  • She’s free.

It’s all true.

If “flow” conjures for you images of water, you’re not alone. Imagine all the waters. The slow, mighty river; the babbling brook; the ocean’s gentle swells; the crashing waves; the dark, quiet lake; the puddles of rain; the deafening falls. All of the water metaphors, even the ones that contradict each other, are correct. There is truth in all of them.

The two metaphors that speak most strongly to me lately are going with the flow (everything I desire is downstream) and standing in the stream as the waters of time, of life, wash over my feet (always water, yet always different). But when do I let go and just float with the flow and when should I stand? Or maybe I just allow the flow to take me, oars up, dropping my hand in the waters from time to time to test the waters, guide the flow? Yes and yes. It’s everything. All the metaphors. All the things.

In the flow of 2020

After flowing between worlds for a year and a half, moving back into our home when Steven returned from Puerto Rico in January, I stopped, stood in the stream, to take inventory. Then came the pandemic, for which we all stopped to asses our situation.

This year, as we shelter in place, I stand in the stream and know my experience is privileged and comfortable. In March, I dove into programs that nourished me. I showed up for myself every morning, to write, to explore, to dream, just like that young girl I remember. In my reduced Covid19 world, I took care of things in front of me: the pond I started three years ago, the garden beds that were unkempt for two years, the novel I started twenty-five years ago, the Tweet-story launch I conceived three years ago. I took a crooked, organic, undisciplined path to tackle my projects, but I finished them. All of them.

I’m here for the flow.

What’s next? I’m not sure. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s deal with what is right before you. But mostly, to trust my intuition. I’ll know when it’s time to stand and time to float. That divine gift of intuition will guide my hand to the waters when it’s time.

What’s next is whatever else 2020 drops along my crooked path. And when I face it, I’ll know what to do.

Some days, this might look like bouncing from this to that. If it’s dusting or mowing, that’ll be true. But most days, I’ll be mindful as I commit my energy to a new project, to my circles, to work, to social justice, and to lifting up. I’ll find my place in the flow of this dissonant year. I’ll find my voice in the lessons of this turbulent flow. My path will be organic but, with the luxury of youth behind me, mindful, disciplined even. I stand mindfully in the rough bed of 2020, unsure when and how to show up, but ready. As I surrender to the stream, I dip my hands into the water to guide my path downstream, going with the flow but no longer drifting.

La Fête Nat (Fireworks in France for me?)

Bigger, harder things may be ahead, but what’s before me today? My birthday! And I’m here for it.

I showed up for my quiet time this morning. What’s before me now? The maddening backyard, which I mowed in my flip flops and a sundress because it’s my birthday and I can. Covered in clippings and sweat by 8 am, I asked, What’s before me now? This will be my mantra. What’s before me now? 

I’m going into this new trip around the sun mindful, flowing, and grateful for all of the waters, all of the experiences that have flowed through and enriched my life.

Thank you for all the wishes I know I’ll receive from phone calls, cards, emails, texts, and on social media. Please accept this heartfelt wish in return:

I hope on this day you feel the flow, whether you’re standing in it as it cools your heels or whether you float and flow with it, downstream. May this flow fill you with joy and delight.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2020

Happy Father’s Day

Gifts

He gave me my first typewriter.

He bought me my first car, a red Toyota Celica stick shift because everyone should know how to shift a stick.

Sure he left me sleeping sideways in a swing for a few minutes when I was barely one, but he came back with the camera and took the photo. Twenty years later, he gave me his Nikon.

He infected me with the lure of dark rooms, trays of chemicals, and glossy black and whites, so I signed up for a photography class my last semester of undergrad.

He gifted me with curiosity. I languished way too long in college, but that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about that innate curiosity that today sends me down Google rabbit holes and through mazes of YouTube tutorials. Always yearning for new skills.

Space

Happy Father's Day!

My first typewriter circa 1968

Did I mention he gave me typewriters? My first one. And then some.

I took a very crooked path, sometimes I felt I had lost my way, but after years of art-numbing theory courses, distractions, and living life, I’m back. Sure, it’s a PC, not a typewriter. It’s a Canon, not a Nikon. But I’m showing up. And that’s also something he gave me. The stick-to-it-ness. The courage to come back, to try. That steady hand, that stubborn determination.

Mostly, he gave me space. When I was two, to feed the hens he’d already fed. When I was ten, to explore the castle on the hill. When I was fifteen, to hole up in my room for days with cassette tapes and a typewriter. Through the years, to sign up for the all the lessons, horseback, judo, painting, pottery, piano, topped off with thirteen years of college! He gave me space to learn and explore.

He had seen my scores, which, like his, highlighted sciences and numbers, yet he allowed me to explore literature, art, speech, creative writing, liberal arts. He gave me the freedom to nurture that chaotic part of me, that inner artist child. The crooked path.

Covid19 chronicles

Emotions are high these days. Mine may have spiked in one of those twenty-some hours I spent sitting with dad in the hospital. Heart work. Even though the procedure is now routine, you can’t avoid entertaining mortality when the lessons involve aortic valves, Cath labs, and beating hearts.

I watched him, I saw myself. Those fears behind a curtain. The stoic, I got this. I know him. Left brain strong, right brain leanings. I watched and learned a couple of things.

First lesson: He’s not the greatest patient (I warned my kids that they’re in trouble if I inherited his hospital patient gene). In his defense, he carries a heavy load and no matter where he is, sitting still and waiting is a struggle.

Second lesson: he talks in his sleep… with some profundity!

When I saw him doze off, I wiggled on the hospital couch to resume my mini reading vacation. My plans were quickly thwarted when he began speaking very clearly, as if sitting at a table with a dozen colleagues.

“I wonder what happens when you get to the last page?”

The last page

Right away, I knew I had to take notes.

I could chew on the first line for years, but he continued, “You take a picture of the next-to-the-last page.”

What!?

He kept going. I couldn’t keep up, mostly because of the first two lines. What is this last page?

“It looks very thorough if what I see is correct.”

Most of his life, dad followed the science, gave his energy to his left brain, but his right brain has always been strong. Maybe part of me is the version of him that managed to wriggle lose from the confines of left brain. Whether left or right, science and art, we share this —facing the last page—, we share our mortality, imagining it, facing it, wrangling with it.

“Where is the next-to-the-last page?” he asked.

A question I wanted to ask, but he voiced it and quickly offered a response.

“I wouldn’t want to answer that.  [pause] We just passed through.”

My eyes focused on his chest for the rise and fall of life. Thank god!

Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father's Day

We all have a father, a sperm donor at least. We don’t all have a dad.

I have a dad. I am still learning how much this has blessed my life. After this week and as we move through Covid19, I’m grateful that my dad is still here with me. Even on the days he confuses me and scares me with his sleep talking. I’ll think about that last page for many days, years even. What do we do when we get there? I’m immensely grateful that this week wasn’t a last page for us.

Thanks, Dad. I’m grateful for all you’ve taught me, all the space and love you’ve given me.  I’m sorry we can’t be with you today to celebrate, but know I love and appreciate you. I promise, after we get a couple more Q-tips up our noses, we’ll be right over with shrimp and coconut cake to make our own Happy Father’s Day time.

©Pennie Nichols. 2020. All Rights Reserved.