30. Pencils down

My company comes to a halt between Christmas and New Year’s. Pencils down. Leukemia surprised me that week, but so did a new perspective on my professional life.

29. Trajectories of grief

Remembering how my mother’s brother died suddenly when I was a young adult. The shocking immediacy of this loss reawakened my grief about my father dying—and about how we handled our grief as a family.

28. The melancholy of all things finished

The monument I built to leave behind didn’t last for long. The cabin started rotting as soon as we finished it. In a professional setting, I concealed my attempt to build something else—another dream I had as a teenager that decomposed in adulthood.

27. The cabin

Remembering how my cousins and I built a log cabin deep in the woods and almost entirely by ourselves. I suffered a rage about finishing it that I couldn’t control and couldn’t explain.

26. Circles of failure

Struggling with the collapse of an industry and the viability of my career just as the 2008 recession struck, I found myself grieving about the direction my life had taken. And I felt I had failed my mother.

24. New Smithville

I became my father’s good man. If he could have seen the life I chose to live, he would have approved. But filling his hole, being his good man meant being just as vulnerable as he was.

23. An empty drawer

Remembering the empty space in our family after my father died. My mother and I kept looking for him in each other and were continually disappointed.

22. You the ghost

As an adult, I talk to my father while sitting on the wall beside his grave. I have built projects in sight of the cemetery, and I imagine him talking to me during sugaring. But our conversation will vanish into the conversations my children have with me.