What I Want You to Know About the Air We Breathe

We walk up the stairs to the second floor of the hospital and stop in front of the door to the ICU. A nurse hands us a clipboard with a small card fastened to it. We walk over to a bench near the elevators where we sit as I fill out the basic details. You are quiet and nervous as you take in the scene, observing the other families milling around near us.

It only takes me a few seconds to enter what needs to be completed on the form. We rise and return the clipboard, and the nurse points us to a short line at the end of the hallway. You hold my hand and I give yours a squeeze as we walk together to the station as directed. Once it is our turn, we hand over the form and your insurance card.

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What I Want You to Know About Grief and Gratitude

We’re a couple hours into the road trip when you wake up from your nap and say, “Dad, I’m getting hungry.”

“Me too, buddy. I’ll pull over at the next spot and we’ll grab some breakfast.” 

A few miles later I see one of the blue signs posted near an exit along northbound I-5, and I list off the choices to you. McDonald’s. Burger King. Taco Bell. Black Bear Diner. You surprise me by picking the latter. 

For a moment, I think about telling you no. Insisting that we should do a drive-thru option to save time, so we can get up to see our family in Oregon quicker. But a plate of bacon and eggs sounds a hell of a lot better to me than a nuked breakfast sandwich, so Black Bear Diner it is.

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What I Want You to Know About Squid Game

“I really regret doing it,” you confess. “I feel really, really bad about it.”

We are in the car driving home from school and you are in the backseat, unburdening yourself of your great misdeed. Looking at you in the rearview mirror, I notice the tension in your body and the nervous expression on your face. You are a seven-year-old on the way to the gallows.

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What I Want You to Know About What I Think Happens When We Die

Even to my untrained eyes, the objects in the black-and-white CT scan seemed misshapen. A burgeoning blob filled most of the ovular cross-section of your mom’s abdomen. Squeezed into the bottom right corner were several other organs, huddled together as if in fear of the growing mass nearby. 

For the last two weeks, your mom had complained about her stomach feeling tight and bloated. “I just feel like a pressure cooker; like I wish there was a knob I could twist to let out some air,” she’d say. Now, looking at the image on the screen, it was easy for me to see why she would feel that way.

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If There Is a Heaven

It’s the two year anniversary of your great-grandpa’s passing. He was the first significant person in your world to die, and it was my first taste of having to talk to you about hard things, something I’ve had to do a lot in the time since. I thought in memory of him, I’d share a letter I wrote you at the time. I didn’t know it then, but it was kind of an early version of what this blog would become. (Love you, Grandpa.)

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I Love You

That’s the post.

There are some other things I thought I might write about this week, but I couldn’t find a way to organize my thoughts that felt right. So instead I’ll just fall back on the words we tell each other every day. The words that make my heart swell to hear you say them. The words that anchor us and guide us. The truest words I know.

I love you.

What I Want You to Know About Blood

The blood flows everywhere. It drips into the sink and onto the floor. It soaks into paper towels filling up the trash cans in the bathroom and the kitchen. It dribbles down onto your shirt.

You stand on the toilet and lean out over the sink so you can see yourself in the mirror that’s above it. You rush to the kitchen to grab more paper towels. You sprint back to the bathroom to spit in the sink. You hop on the toilet so you can look again in the mirror.

You have lost a tooth, and this one is a gusher.

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What I Want You to Know About Rowing a Boat

The oars drop into the water in near unison. We push our bodies backward with our legs and pull the handles to our chests. We slide the handles down against our bodies, lifting the blades out of the water. We lean forward and drop the oars back in. Push and pull, down and up, moving in time with the other rowers in the whaleboat. We skim along the water and, though we are all sweating from the exertion, the movement feels smooth and effortless as we work in rhythm. Drop in, pull back, lift out, repeat.

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What I Want You to Know About Our Trips to Korea

Your mom and I traveled to South Korea the summer after we were married, and then twice more after that. We were there with six other Americans to teach English to school-age children at weeklong camps put on by the Gyesan Central Methodist Church in the northern reaches of Incheon.

I say “teach” but it wasn’t like I was recruited to provide any deep level of insight into, say, the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. While the other Americans in our group were able to impart some wisdom on how to remember all the backward rules of our English language, I was mostly there to be a spectacle: a goofy white giant for all the kids to climb on and joke about to one another.

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What I Want You to Know About Failing

We were lying down for bed one evening this week when you told me about some drama you were having at school with your best friend, N.. The class must line up to go back into the classroom after recess, you informed me. Some days you outran N., and he was not happy that you were ahead of him in line. You told me that sometimes you let him take your place in front of you, but that sometimes you wanted to be ahead of him even if it meant your friend was jealous.

I had forgotten how troubling the worries of a second grader could be.

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