lessons my father taught me

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I was thinking of my father and all the lessons he taught me over the years. After this healthy 69-year-old man was diagnosed with a fast-growing malignant brain tumor, as his brain and body slowly failed him, he continued to teach me. The lesson described below was one of the most important.

We Should Have Left an Hour Ago

I stay with Mom and Dad
For a week
Before his surgery.

We cry a little,
Talk a lot,
Pray all the time:
The three of us together,
With everyone who stops by,
Or calls on the phone.

Packing up
Two distraught people
To go to San Francisco
For surgery
Is only accomplished in spurts
Between
Answering the doorbell
And the telephone
Which rings again.

“This is the last time I’ll answer it,”
Dad talks to a colleague.
I load the trunk,
Check off items on the list with Mom,
Walk through the house—
Closing latches, locks, windows—
Then rearrange the trunk.

I stand in front of Dad,
Point to my watch.
I pace.
Mom gets on the other line,
Then calls to me,
“Get on the phone.
We’ll pray for a safe trip.”

I kick the sofa,
Grind my teeth,
Take a deep breath,
Pick up the phone
To listen
While others pray
For the rain to ease,
For energy,
For safe travel
While I watch the minute hand on my watch.

I grip the steering wheel as we set out
To traverse unfamiliar territory
Masked by fog and rain
And find a tunnel of sunshine
on clearly marked roads
that lead strait to our destination.

Thank you, God,
For answering a prayer grudgingly offered.

~Kathleen Evenhouse, 1992

 

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