One of the most erudite persons I’ve ever known, you asked at my admissions interview why poetry was. What was its purpose? What made it valuable, and distinct from prose? It had never made sense to you.

A family emergency kept you from attending my senior thesis lecture on that topic. We never did get to finish that conversation.

I am a participant in x365.

“I’ll stop and you’ll have to go around with your hair half-done if you don’t stop looking at my room!” you warned, if my glance strayed from the mirror on your dresser.

When the brush pulled my hair: “Stop crying. That didn’t hurt! What, are you tender-headed?”

Some people have the oddest ways of showing affection.

I am a participant in x365.

Your person bore the same false glamour as your name, which sounds like a glorious flower but is really a stout tree bearing leathery blossoms. When my brother came to help me move, you joined him in a diaphanous dress adorned with glittery scarves. You cooed over my decor and pranced over the sidewalk in those heels.

I am a participant in x365.

When you were a student teacher, rumors abounded: that you were gay. That your first name was Harry. That you eaten pizza with another man, alone, sitting beside him in the booth.

Your real enemy was your inexperience. Your first name was Alan. I studiously ignored the rumours, having been subject to the same children’s baseless taunting for years.

I am a participant in x365.

You were an imposing, disciplinarian figure for your four children; they were all surprised when you enjoyed bantering with your young daughter-in-law, my mother. She quoted Shakespeare to you. You quoted it right back to her with a grin. Until then, no one else knew you’d read anything but your bible.

I am a participant in x365.

I stepped through the looking glass and there you were: forgiving the unfamiliar slang of a foreigner and willingly showing me around.  We shared an old-fashioned two-student desk, with holes for inkwells though we lives in the age of ballpoint pens.  All these years later, I wish I could find you again.

I am a participant in x365.

Poke. Poke.

“Acorn, quit poking the cat with your baton.”

“I not poking her. I teaching her. I helping her learn.”

“Oh, really? What are you teaching the cat?”

There passes a long moment filled with frantically rolled eyes, a twisted mouth, and several “um”s. At last, he comes up with an answer he thinks will be acceptable.

“I’m teaching her about Jesus!”

I am a participant in Holidailies 2007.

At your funeral, the pastor — a young man grasping to flesh out the eulogy of an old woman he barely knew — read The Giving Tree. All your children, and their children, took care not to meet one another’s eyes, for fear we would laugh aloud at just how inappropriate the man’s choice was.

I am a participant in x365.

Fifty years ago, you married the only woman you’d ever date. All your life, youth and adulthood alike, you never shrank from physical labour or even took a day off.

Twenty years ago, a particularly vicious cancer left your life, but took forever your ability to work. I always wonder: How do you cope?

I am a participant in x365.

I must have been a very small child, because someone was holding me up, carrying me on their hip and standing before the window so I could see outside.  “Yeah, that’s your brother and sister out there,” the person holding me says.  Identification is necessary not only because we’re looking down from a height — a second-story window, perhaps — but because my siblings are dressed in hooded snowsuits and boots.  They could be anyone.  “Look what they did for you.  Wasn’t that nice?” the voice continues, and the hand not supporting me points at the window, down at the ground.

There’s a snowman in the background.  The children in the snowsuits (one navy blue, one red) are standing, grinning with their entire bodies, before a set of footprints that spell out my name in very large letters.

I am a participant in Holidailies 2007.