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Present Writers: Lois McMaster Bujold

This is the latest in a recurring series! For more about the series, please read the original post on Marta Randall, or subsequent posts on Dorothy Heydt, Barbara Hambly, Jane Yolen, Suzy McKee Charnas, Sherwood Smith, Nisi Shawl, Pamela Dean,Gwyneth Jones , Caroline Stevermer, and Patricia C. Wrede.

Honest to Pete I will do a post next month on a Present Writer who is not a personal friend, but frankly it has been a lot lately, and it’s not my fault that I know a lot of amazing older writers. (Reports coming in suggest that it may be partially my fault. We can deal with that later.)

One of the things I love about Lois’s work is that she is extremely speculative about relationship, family, and reproduction. You cannot separate out the “science fiction plot” and the “family plot” or the “fantasy plot” and the “romance plot,” because they are always, always inextricable. The speculative conceit is never window-dressing, but neither are the human relationships tacked on as an afterthought. The worlds the characters live in are integral to how they relate to each other in families, how they consider building their families in complicated ways–how they have children but also how they form other kin-bonds, which affines receive what kind of loyalty and why.

It’s sometimes hard to realize how ground-breaking some of her books were because they broke so much ground that two houses have been built and torn down for an entirely new gigantic business development in the short time since Lois broke that ground. Rereading Paladin of Souls made me realize with a shock that Ista as a middle-aged heroine felt astonishing in ways that she would not now–because people took that ball and ran with it. Other treatments of family, parenthood, middle-age, and gender were shocking at the time. Some of them are still cutting-edge while others are not how Lois herself would do them now–and she keeps thinking, keeps talking to others, keeps turning over new ideas from different arts and different parts of the world. Some of Lois’s influences are obvious and others surprising, but even as she’s broken ground for others, she’s always open to others’ work, which is part of what makes her such a gift for us now.

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David Mogo, Godhunter, by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Review copy provided by publisher.

A slightly future/altered Lagos, Nigeria, is the setting and the heart of David Mogo, Godhunter. It is squarely in the middle of the contemporary urban fantasy tradition–the one with Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher, not the one that’s a sub-genre of romance. And that combination of factors changes the beats and the shape of the story completely.

David Mogo is half-orisha. He is learning who he is and who he wants to be. This is a very coming of age sort of book. But coming of age as the son of a god in a ravaged natural and magical landscape is anything but a standard tale. David’s care for his family, his chosen companions, his surroundings, infuse this book with an intensity that makes it a page-turner every bit as much as its dramatic action scenes do.

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The Last Tsar’s Dragons, by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple

Review copy provided by the publisher. Also I know both the authors socially.

Do you want a novella about the Russian Revolution in which Trotsky raises dragons? Because that’s what this is. The POV rotates quite a bit, so it’s not only Trotsky raising dragons, there are also sections on the Tsarina Alexandra’s views on dragons, Rasputin’s views on dragons, etc. Well, and some other things that aren’t dragons. There’s quite a lot of genuine history (fictionalized enough to provide dialog, inner thoughts, etc.) of the last days of the tsar’s empire and the beginning of the Russian Revolution–I was actually surprised at how closely this hewed to the reality of the world we live in, considering: dragons.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. The Russian Revolution and its main figures had enough weirdness for any speculative writer. In that context the dragons almost feel like the most normal thing, which may well have been the point.

In any case: if you’re like me, you heard the premise and made up your mind that you wanted it right away, and that is a very sensible thing to do.

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Memorial remembrance of my dad, Dan Lingen, 6/22/19

(This is the eulogy that a family friend, Barry Anderson, read on my behalf at Dad’s memorial service yesterday. It is by no means my final word on my father, but rather a beginning of the writing I will do about Dad and what he’s meant to me–and one for a very broad audience, since we had at his memorial various sides of the family, my friends, Mom’s friends, Grandma’s friends, my colleagues, his colleagues–and of course his friends from all different parts of his life. Still. This is where I started.)

I think most people go through at least some phase in their life when their dad is not one of their favorite people–some time, usually in their teens, when they kind of get at each other. I never did. My dad has always been at the top of my list.

When I started studying physics, I found out about binary star systems, where two stars form a stable orbit around a center point instead of one consuming the other’s mass. I thought, that’s Mom and Dad. Then I learned that the planets in those systems tend to have very eccentric orbits, and I thought…well, there’s me. There’s always been more to our family than that–but so much of my childhood took place in that binary star system that as I try to write this, I’m having to translate from a private language with only two native speakers left. Some of the small communications among us were not even conscious. The day after Dad died, when I was missing the way that I would go off with Dad to just be silent together for a moment, Stella told me that we each made the mirror image of the same face at each other when we wanted to have that silence together. I never knew that, I just did it. It was like breathing. Right now I am trying to write this with half the light on my planet gone. When Mother was talking about how overwhelming it was to try to write a eulogy for Dad, I said to her, Mom, we can walk on the surface of the Earth, we can send people to walk on the surface of the Moon, but we can’t send people to walk on the surface of the Sun. Her relationship with Dad was two suns, and you can capture flashes of that, the lens flare of shared jokes, the warmth it cast on everything else, but you can’t portray it directly. It was just too bright.

Tolstoy said that happy families are all alike but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Being raised by my parents made it clear that that Tolstoy was completely wrong. I’m willing to believe that we are not the only happy family! But I’m pretty sure the other happy families didn’t spend nearly as much time talking about prehistoric giant beavers, Earl Battey, the Oglala Aquifer, the politics of mountain regions vs. prairie regions, or Haakon the Seventh as we have. I think it’s hard to explain how much variety of stuff I have always talked to my dad about. It’s pretty normal that I talk to Dad about how Mom is doing or how to best encourage the godkids in their dreams–although I know not everybody has a relationship with their dad where they get to do that. It’s less typical that I’ve been excited to talk to Dad about dinosaur poetry or a new book about algae that’s coming out this summer, but that’s how we roll. I have no idea how I will prepare for the talk I’m giving next month about existentialism in the works of children’s author Lloyd Alexander, without talking to Dad about it. For so many topics he was the only person in the world I could think of to talk to. Part of this is that Dad was always, always willing to go off on the weirdest tangents. No road was too obscure or too strange for my dad’s attention. There’s a story about my uncle Phil that ends in “Nah–too weird!” but one thing he got from Uncle Phil and passed on to the rest of us is that nothing was ever, ever too weird to talk to Dad about. Nothing too personal, nothing too unimportant, nothing too philosophical, nothing too off-the-wall…it could all go to Dad.

My dad approached parenting like he approached everything else: in a spirit of joyful exploration. My mom tells me that when she was pregnant, he would bend down and whisper to me in her belly, “Chemistry is fun. Math is easy.” The fun part there was not optional. The message was not “put your head down and do science at all costs, no matter how terrible it is,” it was “let’s poke at the universe together and see what fun we can have.” It was “don’t let them tell you this is a grind, because it’s actually a great big game.” After lab in college, I would call Dad to talk about how each experiment went. I still remember the surprise and excitement in his voice my junior year when we got to Franck-Hertz experiment, one he had never performed, and I got to describe the lavender mercury vapor and the peaks and valleys that showed the quantum world in a way he’d never seen. Dad loved to bounce his new membrane ideas around with me. We got excited about the world’s beautiful new possibilities together.

We explored maps together from the very beginning. When I was almost six, we packed up the five of us in Grandpa’s big blue Buick and set off east. Dad handed me the maps one morning and said, “Let’s try to get Grandpa into the middle of downtown Toronto.” For the first time, I got to help navigate–and I steered Grandpa right into the heart of Canada Day celebrations, because Dad believed I could do it. He never believed anything was beyond me. Coming out of one of the hardest years of my life, I wrote in his Father’s Day card, “Your support has always meant the world to me, Daddy, but in the last few months it’s given me the strength to pursue my dreams. Thank you.” He kept it. Mom found it in his pajama drawer along with the postcards I’d written him every week of that year, which was the year I started publishing fiction. He taught me not just how to use a map but how to go off the edges and make my own.

I have wonderful stories of exploring the world with my family, tasting fish on the wharf in Bergen, Norway, trusting Mom’s nose to pick out the best pub in London, or dodging traffic trying to get to the North Church in Boston, but truthfully some of my favorite explorations with Dad were to such exotic locales as–silence please–the grocery store–or–drum roll–Target. Every trip to the park resulted in a magic stick. Saturday morning trips to the post office were a special treat I looked forward to all week. I think one of the things that made time with my dad so wonderful is that he was such a great listener as well as a good talker. He and Mom wanted to learn things with me, not just teach things to me. Lots of people’s musical taste stops in their early twenties. Dad did want to expose me to the artists he loved, so I got plenty of Simon and Garfunkel, Beach Boys, Carole King, and more–but he was thrilled to learn about 10,000 Maniacs, Barenaked Ladies, and the Indigo Girls in the Nineties, up to Josh Ritter and Meg Hutchinson in this decade. He never stopped having new music to love. Lillian was so proud to play Santana songs for him, but I know he would have loved learning whatever songs she and Rob grew to love, because he had never stopped and had to restart again.

This is not to say that there weren’t a few hilarious bumps in the road of joyfully exploring with Dad. When I was five, Mom worked an early shift to be able to be home with me when kindergarten got out at noon–which meant that Dad was in charge of getting me ready for school in the morning. He was still cleaning up breakfast dishes when I slipped in the bathroom and singed my wrist on the curling iron. Once he made sure it was a superficial burn, Dad did all the right things, running my wrist under cool water and bandaging it, pulling me into a hug–and then said, excited, “Marissa! Now is a great time to learn about your body!” What! I listened indignantly as he described the miracles of the white blood cells mustering a defense of my skin, which did not seem like an opportunity at that exact moment. I teased him about that one for the rest of his life, drawling out, “Daaaaad, it’s a great time to learn about your baaaaaady.”

My dad’s belief in the importance of playfulness ranged through his whole life. His relationship with Grandma started with water fights when he was a teenager and she was a fun young mom throwing her home open to hordes of her daughter’s friends. Up until his last days, Dad loved to play cards and games with Grandma and her friends–and how many mothers-in-law can honestly say not only that their son-in-law would drive their friends around for game night but that he clearly enjoyed doing it. He would also peer carefully at the intricate games Mark, Mike, and Kev would set up at Christmas, at all the tiny moving parts showing new kinds of game that he had never seen before, always a fascination.

But he took especially thoughtful care in teaching play to my friends when I was little. A lot of dads coach softball–so did mine. But I also have pretty special memories of how my dad taught one of my friends about teasing and joking. She was an immigrant whose journey to this country was pretty rough–and once she got here, her experience of Americans teasing was that she was the butt of the joke, and that laughter was always at her expense. My dad took the time to teach her in very gentle stages that it didn’t always have to be that way. I remember him coming in and saying to her, “You will be very sad because Mrs. Lingen has made brownies and you do not like those.” He waited hopefully. She paused and thought about it. “Mr. Lingen, I think you are teasing me because you know I do like brownies.” He said, “Yes–and you know you can have as many brownies as you like here at our house.” From that very simple point Dad stepped her up to the idea that you could tease somebody because you liked them–that her new American life could feature people who were including her in the joke instead of keeping her out. That was the kind of play he always liked best, and he wanted to make sure other people had the chance to enjoy it too.

With all the time they spent together from basically the minute their ages hit the double digits, you’d think my parents would know everything about each other. And yet I remember within the last year each of them marveling to each other, “I’d never heard that story,” or, “I didn’t know that!” about new discoveries they could make together, new stories to tell each other, new dreams of ways the world can get better. Some of this is that they remained always open to listening and thinking about each other’s perspective. Some of it is that they have both always listened respectfully to others, so that when they came home to each other they would have fresh perspectives to present from their conversations, new thoughts sparked by other people they value–people from all walks of life.

My dad centered values in his life, not policy–the question was always how to get clean water, clean air, how to feed hungry children, how to nurture hungry minds. When he was a young man he was interested in hearing my grandfather’s viewpoint, which was a lot more traditionally conservative than Dad’s was then. These days I’m pretty far on the progressive side, and Dad listened to that with just as much respect as he gave Grandpa. But the point for Dad was never what team you had signed up to play for it, was how the ideas worked and whether you were treating all humans with respect and decency–and whether you were always willing to take in new information on how each idea was working in the world to help real humans. My dad would be the first to tell you that if you spoke all the tongues of men and angels but had not love–real love, love that is enacted on the earth–you were a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (Probably less than that, because he would want our percussionist Lillian to have all the clanging cymbals she wants. Sorry, Stella.) 

My dad taught me that a perfect day was a day that we all spent together as a family. The details didn’t matter–it was the time we spent that made it perfect. So if I tried a new recipe and the sauce came out soupy–perfect day. If the beautiful castle and garden in Uppsala were at the top of a very VERY steep hill–perfect day. (As God is my witness, Grandma, it looked flat as a pancake on the map.) He appreciated the ways that Mom and I spent time lining up details to make a GOOD day, whether it was reading newspapers over brunch, climbing down a thousand-year-old copper mine, learning a Japanese style of weaving, or spending all day making the year’s supply of lefse and Christmas cookies. But ANY of the details were the RIGHT details as long as we were together, and Dad knew that was what mattered. He would hug me at the end of the day and whisper, “It was a perfect day.”

We had so many perfect days.

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Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh

Review copy provided by the great chain of agentsiblings through which I know Emily.

This novella is so central to what our agentsibs love, I can hardly believe it. Trees trees, so many trees. Dryads all over the place, questions of who stays dead. Tobias, the wild man of the forest, has dark secrets in his past, and trees upon trees in his present. His future is entwined with that of Henry Silver, both intrigued and intriguing. Henry has a lot of questions, most of which Tobias would really rather not have to answer.

I may have a different favorite character than the rest of them (Henry’s mommmmm), but I think we are united in the squee on this one. This is just our sort of thing, just exactly our sort of leafy stabby thing.

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Readercon programming schedule

Classic Nonfiction Essay Club: “Estrangement and Cognition” by Darko Suvin
Meg Elison (mod), Tom Greene, Alexander Jablokov, Marissa Lingen, Graham Sleight
Fri 1:00 PM, Salon B
Darko Suvin’s preferred edition of his essay “Estrangement and Cognition,” coining the oft-repeated statement that SF is the literature of cognitive estrangement, first appeared in 1979. (Strange Horizons later reprinted it online.) It was a decade in the making, and the world and SF both changed quite a bit from 1969 to 1979. We’ll consider “Estrangement and Cognition” in the context of SF’s New Wave, the political upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s, and the subsequent shifts in speculative genres.

17776 and All That: The Crumbling of the Jock-Nerd Divide
Susan Bigelow, Keffy R.M. Kehrli, Robert Killheffer, Marissa Lingen (mod), Cecilia Tan
Fri 6:00 PM, Salon B
Jon Bois’s wild digital narrative “17776: What Football Will Look Like in the Future” appeared on SB Nation, a sports news website, and aimed straight at the commonalities of sports and SF fandoms: rules and ways around the rules, glorious absurdity, tragedy alongside heroism. The jock-nerd divide has crumbled. What does that mean for nerd lit? Will cerebral SF embrace sweaty physicality? Will epic hockey games replace epic battlefields? This panel of sports-fan fans will discuss these possibilities and more.

Reading: Marissa Lingen
Sat 11:00 AM, Salon C

You Know, It Kinda Grows on You
James Patrick Kelly (mod), Marissa Lingen, Arkady Martine, Eric Schaller, David G. Shaw
Sat 3:00 PM, Salon B
Spaceships that are giant plants, humans whose brains rival supercomputers, lizards bred to function as flying flamethrowers—these are just a few science-fictional examples of how humans might manipulate their bodies and environments to support the human race’s spread throughout the universe. This panel will examine imagined technology that lives and breathes, and how human life might change and grow alongside it.

Lloyd Alexander, Existentialist
C.S.E. Cooney, Andrea Martinez Corbin, Chris Gerwel, Marissa Lingen (mod), Sonya Taaffe
Sun 11:00 AM, Salon 3
Lloyd Alexander, translator of Jean-Paul Sartre, wrote an existentialist epic fantasy series. As Jesse Schotter writes on Full Stop, “The end of The High King, and Taran’s choice to remain in Prydain… salvage[s] the idea of free will within the deterministic framework of the genre.” How did existentialism influence Alexander’s other work (Time Cat, the Westmark trilogy)? What are other examples of existentialist speculative fiction epics? With the present deconstruction of prophecy-driven epics, how can writers learn from Alexander’s work?

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Fourth Street Fantasy schedule

You already know that I am one of the workshop leaders for this year, and if that is relevant to your life, you have signed up for it already!

In addition, I am on one panel this single-track convention, and that is:

Saturday 8:00 PM – The Role of Narratology in Adaptation

Casey Blair, Kent Davis, Seth Dickinson, Marissa Lingen, Arkady Martine (M)

All art is in conversation with other art, and nowhere is that more clear than in adaptation. Transforming works of art is a fundamentally creative process that, done well, keeps core pieces of the story familiar while also shifting the narrative focus to appeal and make sense to new audiences with different perspectives. Fanfiction and the act of retelling tales are as old as stories and equally worthy creative pursuits, giving us opportunities to center the experiences of other identities, to explore issues previous story iterations didn’t. Applying concepts of narratology as they pertain to how we transform stories so their meaning makes sense to a different audience, this panel will discuss the artistic challenges and pitfalls in adapting stories as well as why this kind of narrative iteration is culturally critical.

Looking forward to seeing so many people there!

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A Sword Named Truth, by Sherwood Smith

Review copy provided by the author, who is a personal friend of some years standing.

This book is just exactly what I needed right now, and also I will probably not be able to tell you at least half of what happened in it in a month. It is full of intrigue. It is intrigue start to finish with then more intrigue. It is probably 850 pages of intrigue in 650 pages of book. And right now that was grand, that could wash right over me like a veritable cornucopia of things that are not personal grief.

Look at all the moving parts! Planets and kingdoms! Humans and shapeshifters! Kids and people who have done the child spell! Whose brain is under which spell and who is thinking clearly? I for one am not, but watching the characters move toward this was just what I wanted in this frame of mind. Not as swashbuckly as Inda but just as political.

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Books read, late May

Ben Aaronovitch, The October Man. Discussed elsewhere.

Elizabeth Bear, The Red-Stained Wings. Discussed elsewhere.

Chaz Brenchley, Dust-Up at the Crater School, Chapters 18-20. Kindle. This was feeling more episodic with its waltzing and ghost stories, but it may be building to something. Boarding school tales on Mars, continued!

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Prisoner of Limnos. Kindle. I enjoy watching Lois play with tropes she enjoys, in this case heists and disguises. It’s in the Chalion universe, in the Penric series, fairly far on in the series and probably don’t start here. Is it her most outstanding work? No, but that’s a very high bar to clear, and it was good fun.

Minister Faust, The Coyote Kings Vs. The Myconauts of Plutonium City, Scrolls 1-6. Kindle. This is a serialized sequel to an earlier Faust which I loved. It has the gonzo referential weirdness that I enjoyed, and it’s certainly moving along quickly enough. I will be glad to see the rest. You can tell I’m enthusiastic because I’m willing to support and read in serial form at all. (Serials are not my medium.)

Tim Flannery, Europe: A Natural History. This was light and funny and lovely, lots of weird animals of historical times, some bits of odd geology, good writing, plenty of things I wanted to read out in the long hours. Absolutely what I needed and recommended.

F.S. Flint et al, Some Imagist Poets: An Anthology. Kindle. Highly variable, and alas, the Imagists I hadn’t had much experience of were not ones I wanted to seek out later, but on a day when things were not going well in the ICU, it was something to read that did not make my life more difficult.

W.H. Hudson, A Shepherd’s Life: Impressions of the South Wiltshire Downs. Kindle. I had hoped that this would have more sheep stuff in it than it had, since I will at some point be revising a novella that is significantly ovine, but it was more an interesting study of a particular place and time, and worth having as such.

Rose MacAulay, What Not. Kindle. This is a comedic satire of the near-future, published in 1918–it’s about the world after the war. It actually still made me laugh in spots–this is the book that made me laugh in the ICU. It is cited as an influence on Brave New World and does all sorts of things with class and caste and intelligence and eugenics more and better and more sharply than BNW. Its ending is also more troubling and ambiguous, more troubled, in fact–similarly unable to see a good way out but in a way that I find more compelling and interesting than Huxley’s because it is so much more personal as well as political. I think MacAulay is joining Naomi Mitchison on the list of writers I expect to read a lot of and squirm and make faces and argue and keep reading. But the fact that most people who are taught Brave New World in school never know of this in the slightest–I feel entirely comfortable saying that’s sexism. That is sexism on a number of levels, and you can go ahead and look for yourself.

Charles Patrick Neimeyer, War in the Chesapeake: The British Campaign to Control the Bay, 1813-14. This is a war technicalities book. It is detailed about very specific bits of war. These are around my house because other people want them, and sometimes I find them very soothing. Here is who went where when. But also I find it solid on a topic that modern Americans do not understand enough, and that is: the dominant empire does not really always get that people who are not the dominant empire often have very different views of the world and of who is the greatest threat than they themselves do. “It’s the French! You should be upset by the French!” the British kept wailing, oblivious to the figure they themselves posed in the world at the time. Ponder this, hegemons.

Fitz James O’Brien, The Diamond Lens. Kindle. This is a 19th century American work of science fiction in which the main character murders a Jewish guy for his diamond to make a perfect lens so he can creep on the microscopic lady who lives in a drop of water. Which then dries up so he pines for her. There, now you don’t have to.

Carla Rahn Phillips, Six Galleons for the King of Spain: Imperial Defense in the Early Seventeenth Century. This is an extremely nerdy book about building and supplying galleons and the taxation and requirements for them, and generally if you are doing a project on early seventeenth century Spanish ships, this is a great resource. I’m not, but it was kind of fascinating anyway, in a soothing way, since it happened to cross my path.

Adrian Tchaikovsky, Walking to Aldebaran. Discussed elsewhere.

Sara Teasdale, Flame and Shadow. Kindle. Dramatic and beautiful and somewhat overwrought. Teasdale always feels so young to me, but it was just what I needed in the ICU.

R.J. Theodore, Meran’s Cataclysm. Kindle. A free short to draw the reader into a larger universe, not structured as stand-alone shorts generally are but still interesting.

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games. Discussed elsewhere.

Lynne Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 28. Kindle. Favorites from this issue included John Chu’s “Probibilitea” and Theodora Goss’s “The Cinder Girl Burns Brightly.”

Jo Walton, Lent. Discussed elsewhere.

Walter Jon Williams, The Accidental War. Space opera, the sequel to the running Praxis books. Lots of aliens and ruling houses and starships going smash and economies going smash and all the sorts of things you would expect from this series. Don’t start here, but if you’ve been having fun, it’s more of that fun.

Brenda Wineapple, The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation. Discussed elsewhere.

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My father

This blog has evolved with time, as you would expect something to do in 18 years. I used to post daily, little rambly posts, few of them particularly themed. Now it’s almost all book reviews and publication news, with the occasional theorizing about craft. But this personal thing is too monumental to leave out.

Two weeks ago yesterday my beloved father had a massive brain bleed from a med he was on. Before the bleed profused we had time to talk and laugh and say “I love you” so many times. At that time there was still a lot of hope that he might recover. There was then a second, ischemic stroke in the opposite side of his brain. The two weeks since have been a haze of brilliant care and uncomfortable facilities, of waiting and hoping and gradual realizations that the Dad I have adored was never coming back to us. He died gently yesterday morning before dawn. My mother was with him. I had been able to spend all day, every day at the hospital–always the three of us, as it’s always been, but other family and dear friends supporting us as well.

I will have so much more to say about Dad–for years, for the rest of my life. I am heartbroken, shattered, agonized. I don’t know how I’m going to do this. One step at a time, one day at a time, everyone keeps telling me. Yes. I don’t think there’s another choice. Those of you who have known me for years know that the phrases I keep handing people like “Dad and I were close” do not even begin to cover it. I never had a phase, not a year of my life, not a moment, when my dad was not one of my favorite people. He always called me Sunshine but we were each other’s sunshine. I don’t even know how to say all of what’s gone. I will have to keep trying.

But a thing I am capable of fully articulating now is this: the ICU nurses at Fairview Southdale did such an astonishing, such a phenomenal job that I never had a moment of doubt that they and we were a team together, that he was getting the very best of care. And when the hospital transferred Dad up to the palliative care floor on the last day, I kept having the mad urge to run back to the ICU floor where I felt safe. Think on that: it was the place where I found out my dad was going to die. I had so many tears in that place, so many bodily indignities for the father I love. But their care for my dad and for our family still let it feel like a safe place to me. That standard of care is an amazing achievement. I have said over and over, “This is the worst week of my life,” and it is. It is. But it could have been so much worse without the ICU nurses we had.

We’re trying to put one foot in front of the other, we’re trying to figure out how this goes. We’re leaning into the care of our friends and family. But I feel like I fell into a parallel universe, and not one of the delightful ones. With the timing of the weather in our Minnesota spring, I feel like I was beaten and mugged and shoved out the door of the hospital into a world that was suddenly bafflingly warm and fully green and filled with heart-deep bruises, and I only wish that what had been taken from me was my wallet.

Oh, Dad.