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  • And there he stood. His tall, lumbering shape with shoulders slightly hunched. Shin deep in the cool mountain stream and the uncharacteristic red hills resting behind his silhouette. He had one hand on the fishing pole and the other fell to his side or unknowingly did what it had grown accustomed to doing for the last 59 years: fishing. The slight smile on his face under the moustache I’d known him to have since I was a little girl told me that all was right and good in his world at that moment.

    And there he sat. Across the table from me with his hand wrapped around a draught of Guinness that mirrored mine. We sat in an empty area next to a window on the street and watched as a bride and groom, friends and family floundered around the photographer. He fidgeted a little bit, lifting the mug to his lips every now and then, and I sputtered out bits and pieces of conversation here and there. But mostly, in this moment, we were comfortable being silent, as we often are together. We were finding comfort in each other’s anxiety and nerves, not knowing whether she’d still be with us tomorrow or not.

    And there he walked. Ahead of me. Guiding me. Leading me. Leading us, actually. He knew all the best secret spots that no other outdoorsman knew about. Greenery that seemed to be untouched land in the rolling hills of northern Iowa. We’d cross over fences on little handmade wooden steps and pass by remains of old stone houses, reduced to their foundations at this point. We’d stop to watch as a family of raccoons scurried quickly up a tree and stared at us questioningly with their little beady black eyes. We’d marvel at the little blue butterflies that would attach themselves to our dirty, wet sneakers and steal glances at the shoulder high wild marijuana bushes. “Oh, so that’s what it looks like.” With all this beauty and wildlife happening around us, we barely even noticed that months earlier a tornado had ravished the entire area.

    And, there he lay. On the bed in a room with white washed walls and a white curtain to separate him from the hustle and bustle that was actually occurring around him. Reduced to tubes and beeping sounds, strangers and strange smells. I’d blink and see him standing in the cool mountain stream, my eyelids as the backdrop. I’d open them and see him lying there, oblivious to where he was or what had happened. I’d blink again and see him, fingers wrapped around the mug. I’d open them and see whiteness and listen to the sound of his struggling breaths. Blink. Setting up the tent. Open. Whiteness. Blink. Laughing with his brother. Open. Struggling breaths. Blink. Crossing a stream. Open. Whiteness. Blink. Blue butterflies. Open. White. Blink. Fishing. Open. Reality.
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