By Susan Bono

“That’s quite a sack of rocks you’re carrying, sweetie,” my father’s friend Bruce said more than once during phone calls last year. It was his way of acknowledging how heavily Dad’s poor health, hard-headedness and self-imposed isolation weighed on me. But I also took it as a tribute to Dad’s stubbornness and my strength, too.

“Dumb as a rock” never made much sense to me, since stone strikes me as having its own unassailable intelligence. Its ability to endure illustrates its genius. I have never believed in the ability to factor equations or compose sonnets was proof of brain power, although I shared with Dad the idea that someone with rocks in his head was lacking in foresight and flexibility. Rocks may be smart, but they are slow. Time measured in stone is something else again.

There were moments during my dad’s dying that were as slow as serpentine, sandstone, rose quartz, chert. His unseeing eyes were obsidian, and the pauses between breaths were long enough to form fossils. But just after that great wave rolled down from the crown of his head, darkening the air around him so his spirit glowed like a white shell at the bottom of a silty river, a tear slid from beneath his closed eyelids. That’s when the sack of rocks fell empty at my feet and I was surrounded by the tumult of released wings.

Originally published in The Flashpoints 2008 issue of Tiny Lights. This issue was dedicated to the memory of Susan Bono’s father, Morris N. Zahl (12/24/24-3/22/09), whose light guides Susan.

Susan Bono, a California-born teacher, freelance editor, and short-form memoirist, has facilitated writing workshops since 1993, helping hundreds of writers find and develop their voices. Her work has appeared online, on stage, in newspapers, on the radio, and in anthologies, including The Write Spot series.

Susan is the author of “What Have We Here: Essays About Keeping House and Finding Home.”

From 1995-2015, she edited and published a small press magazine called Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative, as well as the online component that included quarterly postings of micro essays and a monthly forum dedicated to craft and process.

She was on the board of the Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference for more than a decade and was editor-in-chief of their journal, the Noyo River Review, for eight years. Susan often writes about domestic life set in her small town of Petaluma.

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