Slipshod Time

Walking with my dad
On a Bourbon St. summer day
1950s
The smell is awful
The sights not much better
Garbage and piss and piles of dog shit
At least you hope it is all dog shit
Dancing thigh-slapping barefoot black boys
(Only we did not say black back then)
“Hey Mistah, I betcha a dollah I kin tell ya whe-ah ya got dem shoes.”
(Always Mistah – no black boy would dare even a look at a Missus)
The smiling white mark takes the bet, eager for the whole aw-THEN-tic Nawlins ‘sperience,
“Ya got dem shoes on you-ah feet and you-ah feet be standing on Bourbon Street.”
Dance laughing away waving the dollah, a mutually satisfying transaction.

My hiking boots stuck to the ground, refusing the next step
1980s
Spring in the Canadian Rockies
Days before, we had crossed a trickling stream
Now, on our way out, snow melt had created a fast moving thigh-high river
I was carrying our youngest
Bob had our two older ones in hand
I was fear stuck, knowing one of us would slip
And be swept away
Then, as if by magic or unthought prayer, two women appeared
Veterans of the first women’s expedition to summit Annapurna
With their ropes and strong arms, their sturdily shod feet
They got us all safely across.

Driving through a Virginia spring
21st century
Foot easing up on the gas
As I drive past Ruth’s grave, next to her mother and grandmother
I remember
A Bourbon St. summer day
A Canadian mountain spring day
Day dawning in a palliative care window
Gordon’s ashes in the columbarium wall
Surrounding the Civil War graveyard on UVA Grounds
I promised him my own would one day rest next to his.

But I don’t want my ashes asleep in an urn in a stone wall
I want my ashes slipped into the wind in a woods traveled only by unshod feet.

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