Tag Archives: Patience

Courage at Twilight: As If They Belonged

The March afternoon shone sunny and warm, and after struggling to help Dad transfer from his recliner to his power wheelchair, I asked him if he would like to take a “walk” to the end of the street and back, thinking he would enjoy a change of scenery and the fresh air. “What I’d really like,” he replied, was to ride his mower, set low, to pull up winter’s dead grass thatch.  I sighed.  I told him I respected his desire to ride the mower and prep the lawn, but if he was having so much difficulty climbing into the chair, I did not think he could safely mount the mower.  He sighed.  And he yielded.  And I suggested the alternative of riding in his power chair to inspect the yard in preparation for riding the mower next week.  He nodded, and I walked after him as he rode his chair out the front door, down the ramps, and onto the lawn.  In the back yard, we found the grass saturated and squishy, and I urged him toward the higher ground.  But he felt afraid to tip the chair on the incline and stuck to the lowland valley, filling the wheel treads with dead grass and mud.  I sighed again.  Back in the house, I parked the chair on the hardwood floor and let the mess dry, and in the evening picked the treads clean with chop sticks and vacuumed up the detritus.  For dinner I cooked Tieghan Gerard’s delectable garlic lemon shrimp, to Mom’s delight: “I love shrimp!”  I did not know but was pleased to discover her “favorite.”  Sarah came over and, with the hospital bed gone, helped Steven and me reestablish Dad’s office—he had invited us to bring back his grandfather Nelson’s solid oak desk, but to orient the furniture so he could see out the window while using the computer.  We grunted and strained in moving the desks and shelves and cabinets and books and endless computer chords into a simple configuration we thought best utilized the space.  Dad ambled in and disapproved, but struggled to express what he wanted.  I had lazily resisted trying other configurations—the stuff was heavy and awkward, after all—but dug into my shallow reservoir of patience, breathed deeply, and acquiesced.  He finally announced his great pleasure in the outcome, and I felt compelled to confess his configuration, indeed, was the best, and to acknowledge the office was his and should be organized as he wanted.  But my reservoir was dry, and I felt exhausted and desperate for time in a dark cave.  Recovered by the next day, I enlisted Steven to help me select and plant juniper trees in place of the fallen spruce.  We measured and drew the space and planned the tree spacing and earth sloping.  At Glover nursery, we texted photos to Dad of seemingly acceptable replacements—we were not about to bring home trees he did not like—and he selected an emerald arborvitae.  Four would occupy nicely the space yet leave room for them to fill out.  As we dug the holes, Dad tooled out in his power chair and watched the entire two-hour process, contributing his encouragements: “Don’t dig the hole too deep.”  “Are you sure it’s okay to bury the balls in their burlap?”  Mom watched from the warmth of the kitchen window.  Having approached the project carefully and technically, and having involved Dad in every decision (Mom was happy with whatever we did), the result pleased us all, and we had four new friends marshalled together under the falling spring snow, standing as if they had always been there, as if they belonged.

Pictured above: four new emerald arborvitae.

Nursery staff expertly stuffing four 7-foot-tall trees into my Subaru.

Dad’s “new” office.

Not Today


More than any other child, Caleb’s bicycle tires always seems to go flat.  I would patch an inner tube one hour and have it be flat the next.  Those awful three-pronged “goat-head” stickers were his bane.  Caleb was too young to patch his own inner tubes, so he was constantly asking me to do so.  “Dad,” he would ask, “can you fix my bike?”  I grew weary of his frequent requests, and often put him off.  Each time I avoided the task, however, I could see the disappointment in his eyes and hear it in his voice: “OK, Dad.”  I would come around eventually, but my delinquency deprived him of many days of happy riding.  When I began to realize what I was doing to him, and to our father-son relationship, I started patching his tires more quickly, began to teach him to patch his own tires, and wrote this poem as a reminder to myself to exercise patience and love with my children.  (Note: each stanza diminishes by one line in length, symbolizing Caleb’s diminished faith in his father.)


On Saturday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad!
I ran over a sticker,
and my bike tire’s flat,
so I can’t ride my bike.
Can you patch it for me today?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“Not today, son, can’t you see?
I’ve far too much work to do.
Maybe tomorrow.”
And Caleb said, “Thanks, Dad.”

On Sunday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad!
My tire’s still flat,
so I can’t ride my bike.
Can you fix it for me today, please?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“Not today, son, don’t you know?
On the Sabbath day I cannot do such work.
Tomorrow would be a much better day.”
And Caleb said, “Thanks, Dad.”

On Monday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.
I still can’t ride my bike at all.
Please, can you fix it, maybe, today?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“Not today, son, I’m all tuckered out;
I’ve worked so hard all day.
Maybe tomorrow, or next week, sometime.”
And Caleb said, “OK, Dad.”

On Tuesday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.
I’d really like to ride my bike.
Could you help me, sometime, fix my tire?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“Goodness gracious, son, how you pester me so.
I told you I’d do it sometime. Not today.”
And Caleb said, “OK, Dad.”

On Wednesday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.
Today’s probably not a good day, huh?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“I’m afraid you are right, son, not today.
Today is definitely not a good day.”
And Caleb said, “OK Dad.”

On Thursday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.
Do you think, maybe, tomorrow?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“Sure thing, son—maybe tomorrow.”
And Caleb said, “OK, Dad.”

On Friday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.
Tomorrow’s Saturday, right?”
Dad replied, “Last time I checked.”
And Caleb said, “OK.”

On Saturday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.”
And Dad replied, “Hey, Son.”
And Caleb walked away.