Practice Gym

Dear Teenage Sarah,

Your Dad will not always be there.

You feel his presence as big and annoying and he doesn’t understand you, as a young woman, and neither do you, as a young woman.

You both focus on another place, with hoops and keys, made of blocks and bruises, hardwood floors and ten foot nets.

In that practice gym you talk to each other in spurts and slaps and barks:

block, go, stop, pivot, hard, jump, pass, drive, push, rebound, shoot, huddle, ashamed, no, yes, and you and he write your story in wins and losses without looking each other in the eyes for too long.

It will be okay. It was good enough.

After games you will celebrate or sit to be yelled at on the cold January car ride home, plied with questions you can’t answer, you try, and get back home to eat dinner and go to your room on the first floor and to college for five years, and he will go upstairs to his room, the creak in the second step.

He will not always be able to walk up those steps.

He will never ask you about your boyfriends.

He will never want you to see him naked when he can no longer turn over in bed.

He will take his last breath in your room after playing an unexpected game impossible to win, but he stayed in the game, never wanting to sit on the sideline, to stop and ask what else there is to love as the game clock winds down, while you try in vain to reach him, you will hug him and hold his hand and give his restless hand a rubik’s cube and tell him that you love him, but he will not answer you, your 1,000 point trophy ball sitting on top of the bookshelf.

He will leave having loved you the best he could with a language he knew and believed in. With faith.

Your room backfills with leftovers from life, the wave tip of a watercolor ocean, great grandparent portraits, old glass bottles, records, file drawers, wedding photos, everyday flotsam eddying,

and you will sleep there again, your future husband, your two daughters, your Dad, dying from pancreatic cancer.

Tell him that you love him.



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