I watched a tractor through the magnifying magic of binoculars this morning. Unaided, I was just able to make out his high beams (why they were on I haven’t a clue as the day is bright, despite the heavy blanket of clouds in the sky) but through the lens, details began to emerge as the tractor ran its errands. To the side in an adjacent field, I saw a white pickup and a newly-clear view of what is normally admired via a quick glance out our sunroom windows. Canada geese flew into my line of sight and, setting the binoculars aside, I noticed a squirrel scampering across the third hole, skirting the bunkers. The pond on the far end of the second fairway patiently waits for the geese to land, arboreal sentinels keeping watch. Purple finches, closer to home, approach our feeder, happy I’m sure, that only yesterday I refilled it with the black sunflower seeds they so heartily crave. There is no snow – just yet – and we’ll enjoy temperatures in the 40s and 50s the next several days but make no mistake: winter is coming.

The hospice bed occupied a large portion of the living room. Ha! — the living room. Dad was dying and it wouldn’t be much longer now. I hadn’t realized the stillness of our melancholy would be punctuated by the sounds of Dad’s death rattle. Nor did I know that he would slip into a coma-like sleep as the cancer, coursing through his body, began shutting down his internal life support systems. It unsettled us all.

We took turns sitting alongside him, holding his hand in ours as we memorized the lines in his drawn, shrunken face, the twinkle in his brown eyes long since extinguished. We sought reassurance every few minutes that he was indeed still breathing. Once, when my mourning asserted itself in a low, wretched wail, the depths of my anguish more pronounced than any grief I’d ever known, my mother scolded me.

“Stop it. You’ll upset your father”.

A memory, unbidden, startled me at that moment. I was reminded of the time my mother visited my kindergarten classroom. Thrilled that she was there, I eagerly twisted my small six-year-old frame for a glimpse of her sitting behind us — a small group of little ones seated on our colorful nap rugs — happily expectant that she would return the huge smile I offered her. Instead, she shook her finger and sternly admonished me to turn around and pay attention to the teacher.

My father was leaving me and now I had two conflicting states of mind to grapple with: this paralyzing, numbing sadness and the frustration (and hurt) of yet again being shamed for expressing my emotions, each time having been inspired by love.