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My heart is a diamond. It’s been shattered. The facets have been glued back on…

My father called on a Thursday night. I screened the number and chose not to answer. I was tired. Already, I offer you excuses. Friday morning I listen to the message he left. Phone flat on desk, his voice eerily emanating from the speaker while I fumble for a pencil to take notes—I’m doing his taxes and he remembered some things he forgot to tell me. Something about having him on speaker and not pressed to my ear was like listening to an analog recording… like playing a cassette tape. It took the poor man a good two minutes to tell me three potential deductions (volunteer miles my stepmother drove to the VA hospital, donated clothing to Goodwill, and a check to some charity). He has aphasia resulting from a serious stroke—the kind where you’re lucky to simply survive. It happened a decade ago, but I’m still caught short sometimes when I hear him struggle for that one word that gets lost somewhere between his brain and his lips… “For mom, you need to put down the… the… miles… no. The mileage… 40 miles… “ [and those ellipses can last anywhere from 3 to 20 seconds; sometimes the words are lost indefinitely]… “… to the… the… VA. 22 days.” It sounds like code. Like clipped messages sent by wire. The speaker function has added distance between us. As if I’m hearing him for the first time. It’s like a hand around my windpipe. He was always a talker. I talk about him as if he were dead. Parts of him are. And I wonder if the glue is going to hold. And tears edge just over the rim of my eyes. One at a time. Letting gravity roll them down my face. And I wish there was something I could do for him beyond his taxes. And I think of my wife battling depression. And my son struggling with Lyme disease. The hand around my windpipe tightens its grip. And I know I’ll continue to try and help, to love those closest to me through simple acts like fetching ice cream, teasing out smiles with bad jokes, and doing the taxes… And none of it will fix a damn thing.