I wrote the following to be read at my father’s surprise party tonight, held to celebrate his life one year after his open-heart surgery.

Words that came from you one year ago, I tried to drink away in a less than perfect kitchen. "Aortic stenosis" are words of ugliness; hard and prickly, slithered at the end like old anger. I hated those words. I hated the random dice roll that brought those words to your body. With each swallow of wine, I tried to make those words dissapate. The lump in my throat remained, for days. After I heard your voice after the operation, I sat down in the cold taupe lobby of my HMO and I cried. Behind cheap sunglasses, my eyes filled, spilled over and I cried, and I couldn't walk or think. I held onto my own knees and choked. Minutes later, I got up, because that is what we do: we go on. I went back to work. That is what we do. I didn't write anything down when I saw you lecture last. I didn't want to lose how you sounded and looked, how your presence filled the room, between penstrokes. To be honest, in that space between waking and dreams, I had feared that maybe I would never get to see you do that again, so I promised myself if I did, I wouldn't take notes. I would watch, so that I could always remember. My own heart broke, metaphorically, last year, and you were there with your own type of operation, carefully helping me put myself back together with a love and understanding as precise as surgeon's hands. Hands held across distances by telephone wire, I knew just how big your heart could be. You just don't know how much someone is woven into your core until their life is tickled with a black feather. You get to see the hourglass and you get to guess at how many grains of sand are left, and it's never enough sand. I give you my sand, Dad; they're called words, and they're all I'm sure of anymore. They are all yours.
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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.