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“I think about these things now,” Dad said.

What he really said was how he wished he had gone back to Chicago to thank Hy Hammer in person for covering the cost of our family to go along with him on his fellowship to Europe. I’m sure Mom and Dad returned in a whirlwind with three little kids. Zion Church was in progress, Mom thought we had outgrown the duplex and family, friends, church needed catching up. It all moved forward simultaneously, day after day, month after month, year after year.

Everything seemingly so important at the time—like me and daily exercise.

Dad used to say, “Exercise is important but so is your spiritual life.”  The truth is, dance was my spiritual existence for a long time. I made a friend at college named Pat Green who I lost touch with, unfortunately. She had a profound impact on my life and I knew it at the time. It was her spiritual depth which she brought to our friendship that affected me–but I wasn’t ready for it at the time. She had studied at L’abri with Francis Shaeffer and was both a dancer and a woman of deep faith. Pat was 19, this would take me a lifetime to accomplish. She received a scholarship to study with Martha Graham for the summer following our freshman year and invited me to come visit. I stayed with her on the upper east side and met some of her friends. I remember talking on the fire escape one evening and a beautiful young dancer sharing that she planned to take time off from dance after the summer because it had become more important to her than God. I know I knew that I knew what she meant but I didn’t want to go there myself.

Through the years, my parents would ask how my spiritual life was doing because it was clear to them it was on the bookshelf along with my beloved Tolstoy, D.H. Lawrence and M.K. Fisher. I would just respond,

“Oh fine.”

Dance had become my spiritual life and I didn’t want to discuss it with them. Tragedy had hit me at an early age. I spent a long time avoiding those conversations and everything else that got too close to my heart.

I think about these things now. I think about choosing to go for a bike ride instead of sitting down beside Mom on the couch as she was paging through her grandmother’s scrapbook. It was the last time we were together at the cabin. I had found the old dusty, copper colored suede book in the attic packed full of pictures, letters and mementos. I had brought it up to the Island for her–for us–to look through. Mom told me when she was a girl she’d sit for hours looking through it. I opened a letter from my Great Grandma Force and read her country dialect and simple grammar. Farm talk. I thought these little treasures would make their way into my stories. I wanted Mom to tell me about them. But I was too busy that day to sit down beside her. The sun was high and with a kiss on her cheek, I was out the door for an Island bike ride. I never saw the scrapbook again. I don’t know what happened to it. I’ve looked everywhere. I’m left thinking the proverbial “I should have, wish I would have, if only I could have, I would take back that one afternoon with my mom. I think about these things now.

It’s funny how the very things we never had time for are the very things we are left with.


Mom and me in the old barn
Photo credit: Bill Kissinger

Dad called to tell me he had gotten to the gym late for his morning walk.  “I’m late!” he had said to his friend, another early morning daily treadmill walker.

“Not on God’s time,” was his friend’s response.  “He has you right where he wants you.”

Dad went on to tell me all the special conversations he had the rest of that day, just taking time for what he thought God wanted him to take time for.

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