Kenmore dishwasher, 1983

We were the first 
among our neighbours
to get a dishwasher
it was my mom’s idea
an empty solution
to her feeling
she was
‘done with cooking
and washing dishes.’

My eager dad
got a good deal
on a Kenmore from Sears.
He ‘knew a guy’
that could
do the install
the peace was kept
and shushing assurances
were made
‘I’ll take care of it.
Don’t worry.’
He said.
Her gaze hardened.

His face flashed
fear like
that moment
of tension
just before the
last crank
of a jack in the box
we all waited
for some
but nothing popped.

This was much

The look
on my mom’s face
wasn’t worry
it fell somewhere
anger and disappointment
like she was
glimpsing the future.

Did she see her
new entitlement
still boxed
squatting in the
a month from now?

Could she know
that it
would serve
only as
an extension
to our counter
for several years
before it’s wheels
were removed
it’s faux wood
top was unscrewed
and it took its
ornamental place
under counter?

Did she wonder
‘the guy’
my dad knew;
she knew
all the guys
that my dad

Was she scrying
that even
after the hoses
were connected
and the hydro
that mustard yellow
would only
ever be filled
with cutting boards
and spare

Was she
admitting to herself
that what she really
wanted more than
freedom from
her chores
was for
us to want
to help
that what we needed
more cupboard space
what we had
was hands enough
to clean the
dinner dishes
and no
to help her?


I almost died...
who says that and means it?

After a long draw on 
his diet coke
he dead-eyes me with-
no one knows what that means.

He is smiling 
and chewing
on a double bacon burger.

I can see the hinge
of his jaw and the bowl
of his cheek work
the beef and grease.

Muscles spasm
slightly under greyish 
skin, his hands

chemo does that.

Who says that and really knows for sure?

This is his version
of bon vivant

I agree in my head,

with my father
swing this way 
every time

I suggest salad.

I'm not sick, he says.

I hug too lightly.

I'm not delicate, he says.

I am quiet.

I. Am. Not. Dead. Yet.
He pronounces 
with both 
definition and 

My mom binds his
days with balms
and emotional buffers
drenched in 
apologetic overbearing

he tries,
he usually 
can't leave 
the house fast enough
and hesitates
in the car
at drop off.

and it’s 
multiplying minions, 
lurk at the edges
of our visits.

We name it,
call it out,
offer it a seat
at the bar
beside us.

We talk over it,

We laugh at it.

My dad mentions
that he will probably
barf later, then jokes-
give me an hour then we can go out for pizza.

In his world you die 
or you don't,

any bridge
of indecision
was washed out 
the moment
of diagnosis.

And living 
means swimming
in the turbulent
eddies of 
the in-between.

He always seemed 
that he could wash up
on the right side
of the riverbank.

Order onion rings, he says.
Then we will go see a movie.

He always 
pays the bill
and says- 
you'll get the next one.


He draws on his cigarette.

The unconcerned tv chatters local news behind the bar. A ticker tape crawls left to right- weather, sport scores, a fire, a lottery winner, a man in his …

That last item will loop back around in 10 minutes or so.
A table near us is paying a bill, they are complaining vigorously about a charge for extra ranch dressing -You didn't tell us there was a charge for that! We want the manager. The server sighs. Hassles.

They disappear and return with the item removed from the bill.

I know they only circled through the kitchen, debited the bill, and did not bother the manager. Tip saved. Problem solved. 

Recent x-rays show expanding pathways of concern in my dad's left hip. As I understand it, his own blood is the enemy. Over his left shoulder a plate arrives. Mine lands from my right.

I notice the break of customary service. It was obviously more convenient, but full plates should come from the right; empty, the left. Rules matter. Certainty. Assurance.

He eyes me eyeing his smoke. If it were related to smoking, I’d stop -he says.

I’ve done the research. He is correct. Would be simpler if he weren’t.

30 minutes ago he described the honeycomb-like decay in his bones as we transversed from hospital AC to July heatwave.
He offers little depth and closes with- Your mom keeps the details in a notebook. Her rulebook.
Should I confirm the details? I pivot and ask how’s he feeling. Without pause, he declares -I want a burger.

It’s 9:30 AM I think to myself. This is a problem.
And then I realize that this problem is not the problem.
My mom expects us back right after the appointment. That’s a problem too. But not the problem.

Back at the bar, I ask -Should we check in at home?

I reach for my phone, he wags his finger ‘no’.

The problem with cancer, he starts -is not how it changes you, but how it changes other people. Makes them unreliable, needy, and rigid all at the same time.

I get a bit of Holden Caufield vibe from his tone.

Really? I think, is that the problem? I guess that could be true. Perspective.

He continues -Before we left, she told me to come right home after the appointment, I told her no. She started crying.

The ticker tape slides back into view. … a man in his late 60's was pulled from Lake Ontario …

He bites into his burger. 

Some sauce runs down his chin onto his shirt. 

Nonplussed he adds -I like breaking rules.


and the appetizers were ordered 

then the phone rang

and she saw me crying

then the empty seats were vacated without warning

and the drive back to the hospital was fragile and silent

then I was both passenger and driver for 13 minutes 7 kilometres

and the parking lot was empty

then memories began flooding back in

and the halls slid past me in cautious waves

then my mom was huddled near the floor

and my sister said he’s gone

then my spouse anchored her hand between my shoulder blades






. . .


12:00PM Sunday Harman park arena Open skate All ages welcome
Time at the rink felt like a vibrant weekfull of forever Every moment stretched easily into the next and then back around again That seamless ebb and flow of bodies stitched together was tide like It never stopped And it never slowed And it never sped Yet he was always one lap ahead and could suddenly appear beside then disappear I blamed the distance on gravity or crowds or my skates resistance but really that space was intentional Functional Noticeable Culpable We could only be lightly into one moment then gliding off around eddies of afternoon skaters the next It was inevitable It was folding and falling and following all at the same time This pattern was well known He filled years with this type of close up magic All smiles never following never leading always moving An hour on ice gave into numb feet held by warm hands above laces falling crisp and stiff to the floor My eyes on the door he reminds over his shoulder to carry cautiously through the crowds strange but I thought to myself outloud that with my skates upside down and the blades in my palms facing up at me that somehow I was the only one in danger Always in the parking lot I realized these noons always ended to soon My hope already hung on the next weekend somehow made me feel better before the feeling worse started to set in Smoke unrolls around his head and is clipped into clouds as he ducks into the front seat of the car 10 minutes of expectation later through a forgettable grey sky drive landmarked by the empty tannery field the closed up SPCA the abandoned railroad a theme itches my brain but I am too focused on donuts to give it anything other the absent attention Levelling out over a road swell that lifts then compresses my hollow stomach signals a warning Here it comes No surprise This guy always took the short edge of the curb into Lake Vista plaza The soft chew and rim clang reminder that parking lots were safe once you made it past the concrete sentry Though it meant nothing to me in 1983 now I avoid exits and entries altogether Its better sometimes when people wonder when I got here and where did I go Frustration like bald wheels spins as he tries to choose a spot to leave the mazda in There was no painted lines because light snow had white washed the entire black top clean We could have been parked sideways and no one could have proved us wrong Backing up is a dad detail that still I have not mastered to this day and avoid altogether It lights up primal parts of my brain Synapses handshake and make neurons connect I start to relive my draft understanding of the art of escape Witnessing in plain view that prepping for leaving can be mechanical and not tied to threat or even feelings I imagined the many times my mom watched him gather up in the twilighted morning to commute into work I wonder how many times she wakes without even noticing his escape He is across the lot in two strides Cupping his cigarette the protected ash falls into his hand Snow hits his palm before the red hot reminder reached his gaze Its like he conjured this place filled with smells and sounds only found on Sundays Watching him take a sip as soon as it hits the table transfixed me What was coffee Who was this guy A guy who could draw a smoke from one side of his mouth and drop jokes from the other A guy who knows other guys by nods and waves and silent gestures of Sunday solidarity At the shop he is easily into his second mug before the foam had settled on my cocoa As the ice flow of an hour ago drifts away I wonder if he sees himself in me Did his tongue ever sting from cocoa sipped too quickly We ordered donuts His fritter seemed an alien thing An unworkable relation to my honey dip An impossible future for me to enjoy.

meet pete part one


The Saturday morning after my father passed, Karen and I gathered our courage and our children into our family room and prepared ourselves to explain to Maddie and Jake what had happened with my dad.

We thought it best to share the story with them as soon as possible. The kids were already playing and waiting for breakfast when Karen and I decided to talk with them.Both of them I know, in small ways, had observed and checked our comings and goings throughout the week with mild curiosity and a bit of concern. All the while much of the true knowledge of our reality was buffered by cartoons and video games, and hanging with their grandparents.

We had shared bits of my dad’s health story, without much gravity, to this point- and often Maddie would ask ‘when is Poppa Pete coming home?’ The hope in her question always lifted me and crushed me at the same time.

I began slowly, and simply relating the events of the previous night. And as expected my tears welled up, Karen’s were falling down her face, Maddie’s sobs broke my heart into even smaller pieces, and Jake held my knee with such force that I thought for sure there would be bruising. Tissues, hugs, more tissues and then eye contact with Karen happened and we have this moment like ‘okay keep going you can do it’… so I did.

Returning to Maddie I check in ‘what are you thinking?’ Maddie is staring and nodding like she is doing a checklist in her head ‘that I’m sad’ she says. Heart crushed, I breathe in – is this even possible I thought? More tears, deeper hugs, and several tissues later. I check in with my son.

‘Jake…what are you thinking’ ‘…’ he holds my gaze but no words come. ‘Are you sad?’ he nods. Maddie’s sniffling draws his attention for a moment. He looks back at me with those amazing deep blue eyes…rimmed with tears. I say ‘it’s okay buddy, you can tell me what you’re thinking..’ ‘if you’re sad it’s good to talk’ Maddie adds. A smile moves across Jake’s face. ‘Can we have waffles now?’

I laughed and in that moment I heard my dad. Jake’s honest question was so in the moment, so perfectly timed that it wrapped up our heavy conversation with the childlike glee that only comes from having waffles. And as my son pumped his fist in the air at the thought of breakfast… I swear I hear my dad saying…‘I’m okay, you’ll be okay too.’