Death in the Distance

I am following my Dad down
a gravel road on
a bike that will never
move as fast as his
not because I am a woman
or his daughter but
because his has pedal assist and a motor
and mine
does not
and his was a gift to himself as he
started chemotherapy for
a lymphoma that is diferent
than the lymphoma my mom has
and has fought
and will likely fight again

on the South Dakota plains it is
not uncommon to encounter wind
but today the wind is whipping at
thirty miles per hour
straight in
and mostly uphill

my dad points out something
dead alongside the barbed wire
fence and I scan the beer cans
and vodka bottles on my side of the road

I wonder at his courage
looking at death in the distance
I wonder at my sanity
looking to speed it up

my dad is many things but he is
resolute and he is
a provider
the day he had his stroke
before I held his hand and
urged him to smile
followed the firetrucks and the
ambulance across town
he told me he should have been
a pilot or a tinkerer
that he always loved trying
to make things work

I think of his six children and
the ways we have followed him
betrayed him
challenged him
encouraged him
fought against him and alongside him
and he has tried to make it work

my dad is many things but he is
learning and growing
and I think this is the greatest joy of being a child
following a parent down a gravel road
in a headwind
straight in
mostly uphill

where I can see his decisions formed
and forged in fear and
worry in my younger years
I can see him trying
but trying to learn how to be free
what if someday
he can stand at his son’s wedding
and watch him take his husband’s hand
what if someday he can celebrate
the ways I have stumbled for the
scraped knees and stories
those falls afforded me

my dad is many things
but he is no coward and
no fool either
when his nose was broken in a freshman football
practice he put away his
pads and determined a different story
there is a difference between giving up
and moving on
there is a difference between being right
and being kind

I wonder at his courage
shoulder shrugging death on the horizon
while I wonder at my
bloodstained knees