The old threads cut up, laid down, stitched side by side, that quilt, it flaps on the line.
A quilt for beds and bodies twined in the dark, hung out here to ride spring winds.
The sun warms the back of a bare neck.
I feel it, and on my arms.
A breeze sways and the wooden pins still hold that quilt on the line.
My Dad, he leans against the wire fence watching the windmill pump. The bonneted Mennonite girl comes out from the house and they talk windmills. They talk about water and wind.
The things that run through your fingers and you can never quite hold.
The windmill hums round with all that rushes in from somewhere else.
It makes water of it.
I’m watching her square scraps rock back and forth in the heat, a sometimes sail that falls dead still.
Dad and I, the kids, my Farmer, Dad’s wife, we drive to the next farm over, the one with the shingle hanging out front that reads “PRODUCE.” A horse stands there patient with a buggy.
I walk amongst the pots, evaluate shades of geraniums. The Farmer and the boys ask after seed potatoes. Dad leans up against a door frame.
I pick magenta blooms, 12 in 4 inch pots. I carry the flat past Dad, set the blooms upon the counter. “You picked pink?”
Dad shakes his head, incredulous at the rejection of my proper upbringing, the years of his formal red geraniums and starched white petunias. I wink at him, half smile, shrug the shoulders sheepish and sometimes you just need to find your own quiet way.
Sealed jars of honey and jam line the walls behind the counter, three dozen homemade carrot muffins lure from a shelf.
A Mennonite in a blue-collared shirt, suspenders, nods, leaves his conversation with a white bearded man in a straw hat, steps up to the counter, asks me quiet. “That is all for today?”
Malakai pats my hip, points hopeful at the muffins and I shake my head and the Farmer nods his smile, reaches for the back pocket of his Levi’s.
The white bearded man at the door turns, the brim of his straw hat catching light and I think I see.
It’s been twenty years, and those years, they’ve wrinkled and they’ve sliver lined and they’ve worn, but I think I see who he is.
“Dad? The man at the door?” I murmur it quietly.
Dad raises his eyebrows and I nod towards the door and Dad’s eyes follow. “Is he Daniel?”
“Daniel?” Dad’s feeling about his memory warehouse.
“Daniel and Sarah — they fed all our pigs the year we did the barn renovations. I would have been…” I try to remember. “Fourteen?”
Dad nods his head slow and the light comes, a recognizing, and he smiles. “You just might be right.”
“Sir?” Dad calls towards the door and I reach for geraniums. “Might I ask where you live, sir?” Dad steps towards the white bearded man all in black.
“Yes.” The Mennonite’s weathered hand strokes his beard, putting the words together first.
“I live just around the corner, to the left, and if you go three farms over, we are on the north side.”
The man’s German accent is thick. Dad smiles knowing, shakes his head that they’d meet here and I remember a summer evening and his barefoot, braided daughter and the way the horses smelled in the shaded cool of the barn and the clanking of the stanchions, the cattle all standing for milking. “Then you are Daniel Martin and a long time ago you finished my hogs.” Dad offers his hand, offers Daniel his name.
I see Daniel’s light flicker, and how we look into eyes and back through years and all the ways time changes us. “Yes, yes!” He takes Dad’s hand heartily. “A couple hundred hogs I fed for you that year.”
Dad smiles. “And I think you and Sarah came once in the horse and buggy to our place — for dinner.” It had taken them all afternoon coming, the spokes making the slow miles. I can see Sarah’s black cape on a hot July night.
“I remember, I remember.” Daniel’s happy too, his beard and all the whitened years falling mid-chest. “And your wife?” he looks behind me and my geraniums, past Malakai pressing against my leg, listening. “Is your wife here?“
“Yes……” Dad looks around, out towards the pots of tomatoes. My stomach knots tight. Dad and Mom’s divorce is what — eleven years ago now?
I look away. Wish I could slip past, by, rush away.
“Yes, my wife is here, Daniel.” Dad nods towards Daniel Martin and Daniel Martin nods happily towards Dad and I think my lungs are collapsing.
“But I don’t have the same wife. I’m not married to that woman anymore.”
I think of Mama’s white hair. And how twenty-five years can be swept away with a few words.
And I want to reach for it, seize it, hold on to all the things that slip through your fingers, wind and water and some dreams.
I see how the clouds pass over Daniel’s eyes, dark shadow.
He says it slow and I hurt so bad I want to bend over, gaping for air.
This, it’s like feeling it all over again — all of where you came from just blown away in the wind and the wind is the father whom you love and I stand still… still here.
I want to open my heavy mouth and find words.
I want to tell Daniel I still have the same mother. That I still have the same God.
That the vow to love never changes, regardless of the direction of the wind.
I want to say that I limp, broken by storms.
I want to say that sometimes you think you might die, and for all your praying, things slip through your fingers, water and wind and dreams.
And did God answer all our prayers? No one enters into the real joy of the Lord in spite of the hard times —- but squarely through the door of the hard times.
I want to choke it out: that I wish that the pins had all held.
I want to say that what I want to be, isn’t — but I know He still is.
God’s purposes are not for me to understand His plans: His plan is for me to understand Who He is.
But I say nothing.
And I can’t slip out the the door, these two men and all my past filling it, and I stare down at my pink geraniums and all these years that aren’t anymore.
I feel how the wind can pump water and my own grief near spills.
I chew hard on my lip, fight back what you can’t see.
Dad asks Daniel about his crops and if they have the corn in, and yes, some, three acres out of ten and things are different in a world with horses-drawn equipment and windmills and same wives, and I whisper Excuse Me, to slide through that door.
Like I could just excuse my wrong mama, and duck out the door and the wind waves the geraniums, blows pink petals into the air and away.
Dad’s wife, she sees me. She calls from the tomatoes, “Ready to go, Ann?”
I stand with my blooms.
Strands of hair blow across my face.
When will I be ready to let go?
There are things that if you keep trying to hold on to, you’ll fall.
Lean against love and you’ll stand.
I wish I could whisper it to Dad and the last 20 years: Love lets go of it’s ultimatums — to ultimately hold a person.
Dad’s second wife chooses her pot of tomatoes all in budding yellow promise.
The wind, it carries Dad’s voice, Daniel’s voice, all that was, and I hear.
Sometimes you get wind of Grace.
Malakai looks up. “Mama? Ready?”
Yes… Yes, I’m ready to go. To let go.
Ready to let go of pain of the tearing apart of what was. Ready to take the ripped scraps, stitch them together, to make a sail from what’s dead and catch the wind ahead.
Ready to take wind blowing in beyond my control, and just make water of it.
I’ve been thirsty too long and I am desperate to drink.
Sometimes letting go is how to find out He holds.
Malakai, he helps me carry the geraniums.
Over head, the clouds, silver-lined, sail on….
Sail over the windmill still singing.
edited from archives
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