I watch his strong steady hands. Over and under, pull taut… Make one loop, wrap around it, pull through, tighten. I love watching him tie shoes – my mind always funnels back to my youth, a little girl, learning to tie laces, his hands helping mine to make the loops, to pull the laces tight. I’m filled with memory.


My chest tightens and I try to pull in a deep breath, but it’s shallow, my eyes water and a few drops spill over, running a trail beneath my glasses, which need pushing up as they’re sliding down my nose. My arms are filled with the sweetness of a 6 week old baby girl, I’m sitting on a yoga ball, bouncing, the baby asleep in my arms.


He stands up, his frame still fills a doorway, though his bald pate is covered with spots and fine white scars – a record of head bumps. His head is covered for now under the black felt hat I bought him a few years ago, his canvas coat, a sturdy coat a lovely tawny brown, is unzipped, his checkered flannel shirt shows underneath.


He stands with the gait of a man his age, still steady, but a little slower, a bit stiff. He looks to me with blue eyes twinkling, resigned, but loving, and walks over, leans over to give me a kiss.


I try to just smile and hold it in, but my face crumples and I just get out a whisper, “Bye, Dad, I love you.” He comes cheek to cheek with me and whispers, “I love you too.” He plants a kiss on my cheek, his hands resting briefly on my shoulders, before he stands, moves through the kitchen and steps into the hallway and out the front door, pulling it shut behind him.


I don’t get up. I let a few more tears fall silently down my face while I hold my baby. I take some deep breaths. I feel the love and the sadness in my chest, the wish for something better, for him, for us, for us all. I breathe, that’s all I can do right now, I breathe.