Keep the shiny side up


I’m sitting there with my Pops, he’s grown weaker through the treatments. Weight’s down. Appetite gone. Hair, gone.

The spirit’s there though.

In his quiet way, it’s there. If anything, in his willingness to resume chemo.

People ask me if we’re close, and I say yes without hesitation, but I know that I’m the distant son. The one that he doesn’t see as much.

We have a strong connection though, like the rest of the world is crazy. Like the drama that swirls around us cannot penetrate, and we exist with a mutual understanding.

I look at this photo and see myself. I see all the qualities we share.

I see how easy he is to read.

A lyric swims through my mind, “Never let you in. Never let you out.”

When awake from the upright nodding off, you can understand what he’s feeling in his expression.

Sometimes it’s blank. Sometimes it’s deep hurt and confusion. and sometimes it’s joy— The smiles lines you can’t repress.

On the drive home, I put in the new Loretta Lynn album, and tell him way too many details about it. About the production. About the wonderful collaboration between old and new. How raw it sounds, and how her voice, though not a smooth as Patsy’s, still bears a lilt all her own. A distinct ingredient.

She sings a song about missing being a mrs., and a line speaks of a wedding band.

He pulls his left hand up, as if waking from a dream, verifying that the ring’s still there.

His muscles calm and relax.

I like these days most of all. When I’m out in the country and spending this time with him. Windows rolled down, and neither of us forced to comment on the news.

Memories whirl by.

I’m home, I catch myself saying. This is where I need to be.

I recall these roads, from my first times driving. The curves. The trees. The fields. The shitty K-Car I got to take out. And my dad saying, “Keep it between the lines and the shiny side up.”