Tralfamadorian Theory


In his mid-60s,
the Parkinson’s disease
my father developed in his early 40s
forced him to move to a nursing home.

He’d been an active man:
marathon runner, bike rider,
weight lifter, hunter,
scuba diving professional.

Instead of boundless skies,
his view became a stained ceiling.
Instead of racing ahead in life,
he now wobbled unsteadily with a walker.

The facility staff saw before them
a frail, nearly immobile man.
His life only as big
as his six by ten foot room.

So I dug his boxes out of storage
and gathered every slide and photograph I could find,
scanned and loaded them in his computer, and
set the screen saver to default to those photo files.

There was my dad crossing the finish line at a race.
Him, age 3, in a sandbox with his older brother.
My father captured holding his granddaughter close.
A line of very dead ducks at his feet with dad lofting a rifle.

He could see the pictures flicker by from his bed
and talk to anyone entering the room
about times like when he dove under the ice
without attaching a safety line, but somehow survived.

There he was with two of his brothers,
dirt bikes nearby as they stood
shoulder to shoulder, grinning,
in some remote woodlands in Oregon.

Image after image of him outdoors
rolled past — in forests, on beaches, in boats,
on open prairie land. To be well,
my dad needed pine trees as much as dopamine.

He wasn’t defined by how his life ended,
but how his vitality and determination persisted.
He was as much eternally the sandy 3-year-old
as he was an older man battling death.

His life best understood as random flickers,
In no particular order. Equally weighted.
I help him move from bed to chair.
He lifts me to his shoulder, carries me to the trees.

NaPoWriMo Day 10


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