Some Ruminations on the End of the Semester

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The semester is over. The lights are up at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Santas are all around Chicago. Salvation Army bell-ringers are asking for your donations. (Look into their organization—I donate elsewhere because I don’t like some of their politics, but I do love hearing the bells.) A semester of work is done. I don’t really have a great picture for this post, so you are welcome for the otters. I thought, with this post, I’d give you a preview of some of the work I’ve done this semester at Columbia.

First, here’s a link to my podcast at I told a story with them in October (and I’ll be remounting that story on January 26th, 2013). I never gave y’all the link, so here it is! Also, this blog here? It won an award. Yeah. Awesome, right? Then, the following is a section of my instance collection from my Prose Forms class. In this class, we focus on non-fiction and write small snippets to create a unified whole. It’s really a great process and is never a way I would have thought to write something. It’s best explained in class, but that’s the gist. I chose to write about the unexpected passing of my father in April and how the grief process works. This comes from a section of the collection that I’m excerpting into an individual essay called “These Were the Secrets We Kept.” I hope you enjoy it! All work is my individual work. Please don’t reproduce it without my permission.

The last day I saw my father was the day I flew back to Chicago from winter break. It had snowed six inches in Chicago and was still snowing. I was supposed to land at 2 p.m., but my plane was delayed seven hours. My mother was at work. I just wanted to get back to Chicago, to get back to the friends that had become my family. We were all going out that night, and I’d just spent three weeks with my family. Wasn’t that enough? Because my flight wasn’t leaving on time, my dad took me to the casino (something we did often as a father-son bonding activity), and we lost some money. We went to a late lunch, and my mom wasn’t able to join us before I flew out because she was still at work. It was a good day. Even though I was twenty-seven, a seemingly grown man, my dad still slipped me a $100 bill before he hugged me goodbye. A secret Benjamin. A secret kept.

“Since we didn’t win,” he told me. “Have fun with your friends tonight.”

I guess I had mentioned how I just wanted to get back to them. I hope he didn’t think I didn’t want to hang out with him or that I didn’t appreciate our time together, because I always did appreciate it. He waited till I went through security and waved to me when I turned around to say goodbye. He always did that, and he was unashamed in the tears he’d cry when either my sister or I would leave. I never cried when I left.

That’s the last time I saw him, and that’s how I like to remember him and not the vision I see because of my mom’s description of his death. This must have been planned by whatever higher deity there is so that I’d get extra time with him, just him. I don’t believe in fate, but, damn, if that day wasn’t kismet, I don’t know what is.