For My Wife’s Father

— Doug Nelson

I am Ruth’s husband.

We chose each other many years ago.

I was so struck when I first saw her, I knew she was the one I didn’t even know I was looking for.

The nuns told her I was a bad boy. We ran away together.

Our first two children looked through the railing of the ship that brought us to America.

We left the hell the victors had made of Europe. We saw no place there for us.

Our children are on their own, self-sufficient and competent, like us.

Ruth toddles around the house and cannot sleep. Because I watch her to keep her out of trouble, I cannot sleep. I sleep only when my daughters come to watch Ruth.

When she walks like that, I see her pregnant. Six times. I see her nursing each of our children. Those breasts, when we were young, that I could not see enough, touch enough. Where I lay my head.

Cooking for us, baking bread, and cookie treats for the children. I see flour on her hands and her wiping them on her apron. I see flour on the end of her nose. I kiss it away.

I feel her presence beside me in church, I see her waiting for me when I came home from work every day.

I hold her hand still.

I do the best I can for her these days. She did her best for me and six children every day.

She’s not gone; she is fading.

My love for her has to be the one thing that doesn’t fade.

She holds my hand.

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