Against all odds, mom “wintered over.” She would endure this disease six months and one day more. I wish I could report, “Against all odds, mom wintered over and recovered from the disease.” No one recovers.

Her relief wouldn’t come for six more months, and they were a hard six months for all of us. But I don’t regret them, and I don’t regret being near. Against all odds, we found flickers of brightness, a smile, pointing at a flower, recognizing a face, even happiness when the house was full of family and friends.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023
on the shore of a beach in Rincón Puerto Rico

The Ebb

We’re living in the ebb.

This may take some time.

My despair is kept at bay, on the shore, just beyond the laps of dark water, because I know the flow will return.

The ebb of winter seeps through all the cracks of our home and hearts. We stumble down the decline, knocking our tender bones against the cold rigid sides.


Locked in, hunkered down against the bitter of the season, lest the frost bite our digits and noses.

The Micro Ebb

Down here, I’m learning that the winter ebb has its own micro ebb and flow, highs and lows.

We rise slightly on the micro flow when mom manages a smile. She drew my hand to her mouth yesterday and gave it three kisses. My heart.

But the micro ebb of the ebb is dark, confusing.

Will I ever find my way up and out?

Every winter, I wake determined to plant my feet and take the steps, write the words, send the queries, but the ebb sucks me back. I struggle to keep up with my soul work because the holidays demand attention, travel, and food.

This winter, the ebb is deeper, darker, more demanding than any holiday.

I hold a protective arm over my head.

Careful! I think it’s folding in on itself!

Mired Focus

“I can’t concentrate on anything,” my dad confesses.

Maybe I respond “That’s normal,” which isn’t untrue, but the better, more honest answer is: “Me either.”

You’re not alone, Dad.

Conflicted and scattered thoughts pool in the depths of this ebb, threads of regrets and dread lace the surface like poisonous oils.

“Don’t do that!” I point my finger. But I’m mainly reminding myself, “We can’t do that.”

This is where we are.

It’s deeper than the three wells on the farm, stacked, one over the other, and I can’t find the rope to pull us up.

So I prepare for what’s coming, because it is coming. We’re almost there, so I write the things now, before the ebb pools in the muddy release of tears. I sit in the stillness of the deep ebb as we wait for the flow to return.

Don’t judge us for looking forward to the flow. I don’t crave it, but the promise of flow after tears sustains me, warms my cold bones as we wait out this dark winter.

Wintering Over

Animals accept the winter ebb, they prepare for it all year long, nests of sustenance, stores of fat so the body can sleep through it. Some animals make it. Some don’t.

Mom won’t winter over this, her 83rd winter. And we’ll all be changed on the other side of it.

Me? I’m sleeping much more than usual.

I’m the bee in winter, nestled in the hive with dislodged wings, because if I flap and fly into the cold of winter, I’ll freeze midflight, fall to the cold brown ground. What good would I be to anyone then?

Set aside the things of flow. Don’t fly just now. Lay down your wings but allow the hum of their engines to warm this space in the ebb. Rest, remember, restore. Spring will return.

This is our ebb. We rest, we wait, we remember, we remind mom that we are here.

I’m listening, Mom.

We hold her hand, hope for smiles, and pray for her relief.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022