Nonfiction Reflection


As my father and I came out of the clearing and saw the shore, he exclaimed, “Wow—it’s so pretty!”


We started walking more slowly. The air was cold on our faces, but the sun warmed our backs. He squinted at the shining water and I saw his exhalation transform into grey wisps.

“Sometimes things are so good that it feels sad,” he murmured.

When I met a friend for lunch yesterday, I confessed, “Something about today is making me miss my mom. I don’t know what it is. It’s not the weather, because it never got this cold in California.”

“Maybe it’s because it’s sunny,” he guessed.

He had a point: It is usually not cloudless and sunny at this time of year in Seattle. When I stepped outside my face reflexively scrunched up; the sun was so bright! But I knew that wasn’t it, either: The sunlight in Seattle looks more “sharp” and white; the sunlight in Southern California looks more “soft” and yellow. (I assume that there is science behind this perception, whether it is actually a function of latitude or a function of my retinas.)

Later in the day I realized that we were close to the Thanksgiving holiday. Today I realized that yesterday was November 21st.

My husband and I were seated at a corner table in a restaurant in Sea-Tac airport on November 21st, 2013. I had ordered a plate of nachos. Our flight to California to see my parents was scheduled to take off in about 90 minutes.

My phone rang. It was my father. My father never called me. Something was wrong. I stepped out of the restaurant.

“Okay, Maria,” he said. He was trying not to talk fast. “Mom went to the hospital today.”

“What?” I blurted. “What happened?” Accident? Injury?

My father had worked as a computer programmer. He was trying to remember all the words the doctors had used.

“She’s on the second floor of the hospital, in a room by herself, a special care unit—”

“Intensive care unit?”

“Yes, yes, intensive care unit. They took her directly there. They said that she would be monitored overnight because she has water and blood in her lung.”

“Water and blood in her lung? Blood clot?”

“Yes, blood clot. I think in her right lung.”

Pulmonary embolism? From what?

I tried to not talk too fast, either: “Did they say how big the clot is?”

“Medium-sized? It was really hard for her to breathe.”

“And water around her lungs?”

“Yes, they said it was a lot of water. They also did some scans, see-tee? CT scans. They said that there is something in her lung. Both lungs?”


“Did they tell you what they think it is?”

“No, not yet. They said that the doctors will know more tomorrow.”

He then asked me if I could reschedule our plans to visit Disneyland the next day. I almost laughed out loud at the absurdity of his question.

I don’t know if I believe the idea that our bodies remember things that our minds don’t. I don’t disbelieve it, but I can’t explain it.

It’s hard to talk about things you can’t explain.

There are and will be plenty of blog posts exhorting us all to express gratitude this Thanksgiving holiday. I won’t run through a list of things you and I “should” be grateful for. To be clear: I do encourage you to go through the exercise (and not just on Thanksgiving), but these reflections are often best done in solitude.

As you we think about all the things we are thankful for, it’s not uncommon for us to feel a swirl of different emotions. That’s okay: We feel the way that we feel. Sometimes things are so good that it feels sad.