Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

Courage at Twilight: Falling on Friday

It is a Friday night, and I am home alone in my upstairs office, reading, and writing, and I am not out with friends and I am not being entertained by superheroes. Every hour upon the half, I roll out and fold over a butter and bread-dough laminate—24 layers—for tomorrow’s chocolate croissants, and between rolling I am reading the Selected Speeches and Writings of Abraham Lincoln.  I bought a copy for myself after reading another Lincoln biography, but Dad was so excited to dive into the book, and cannot read without a yellow highlighter (like I cannot read without a yellow highlighter) that I gave him my copy and bought a second for myself.  Already I have learned the words “vulpine” and “hagiography” and learned that Mr. Lincoln was not merely the stoic statue of still photographs, but faceted and furious and considerate and cutting and desperately sad and brutally patient, and witty, and he loved to tell stories, for stories will tell the truth faster and longer-lasting than the truth itself.  Dad told Lincoln stories at the dinner table, but he looked very tired; he had seemed tired all day.  When I first saw him this morning, and asked him “How are you today, Dad?” he responded with his characteristic “Marvelously well, thank you!”  But later he confessed to feeling “very poorly” and tired and weak.  When I finished my work day, he said he would go outside to blow the rock wall clean of pine needles and leaves and dirt.  And I began mixing my dough.  I kneaded and listened, tense, and soon heard a desperate bellowing from the back yard and rushed out the door to see Dad, on his hands and knees, sinking to splay on the concrete, shaking with vain exertions to move.  I managed to lift him back up onto his knees, and in a huge joint effort he inched up the arms of a patio chair high enough for me to kick another chair behind him, where he sat, trembling and pale.  “I fell,” he observed flatly.  Despite his state, he insisted on mounting the mower and cleaning up the grass.  Between bites of chicken and broccoli, he told us, “I think my legs just collapsed.”  Feeling traumatized, I blurted, “We need to have a conversation.  You cannot work in the yard if you are feeling weak and I’m not here.  If you fall when I’m not here, you’re not getting back up, and it will be an ambulance and a hospital and who knows what!”  Inside my head, I screamed, You’re not allowed to be stubborn!  To be stubborn is to die!  I had felt terror at finding him helpless on the patio concrete, at my not being strong enough to muscle his bulk off the ground, of his visible deterioration week to week, of knowing this is a one-way track with a finish line I don’t want to cross.  Seeing that my fury came from my fear, I could forgive myself and forgive him and calm myself into a nice family dinner.  It is a Friday night, and Dad is watching the Jazz game from his recliner, and I am reading and writing and rolling out my croissant dough, and after the rolls bake tomorrow, Dad and I will go outside together with rakes and shovels to do a little yardwork before dinner.

(Dad’s labors in the yard beneath his beloved mountains.)