my father was a difficult man

this isn’t about him

when we were young,

were we ever young.

when we were young, we would go to see him.

we were difficult as well. we were work.

hey, Dad. Are Sandy and Bernie around?

we were glad when they were. I was glad. friends you know without knowing

once, in New York, in the lobby of a Helmsley hotel of all things.

once, in New York, working. they, s and b, visiting, something something

all of us drinking

all of us listening. me, at the end of a day of meetings with adults from around the country. they, learning to read, learning to advocate for themselves.

(this my father knew to do) (he was not there. this is not about him)

they, listening. to the people. to Archie from Iowa who soon after had a heart episode.

[all of this is heart episodes]

they listened. s and b. they listened.

when we went upstairs, before we left, she said

make nice

or did she tell me to be nice

the intent was clear either way. step off your judgy ass self.

be. just be.

when my father left, they made a beautiful thing for his leaving. for us.

they had our back. they were with us.

she was with us. she is. with us.

not as we wish her to be. this one thing is unspeakable.

there is no good thing to be had from its truth.

she is not with us as we wish her to be.


Ellen Bass wrote the courage to heal. that not withstanding, she also wrote this:

“to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.”

I don’t know


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