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A Solar Eclipse with Dad

December 25, 2000

Late in the morning I walked through the mountains to forget my problems and take a refreshing breath on the road up to the old fire tower, no longer in use, fenced off with barbed wire. Radio towers are there now. Through the bare trees sloping to Lancaster Valley, I looked down on the fields and the farmhouses covered with snow, the wind like the sound of muffled distant cars. Returning to the house, my father was sitting in the driveway in the car facing the sun, the motor running, heat on. I got in the passenger’s side. He was watching the solar eclipse. I looked through dark glasses. “The moon is passing between the sun and us,” Dad said as I saw it crossing the sun at one o’clock above us. There won’t be another one like this for three hundred years. We’ll be dead then,” Daddy informed me and I said, “Yep.” He said, “Some folks around here say the world was created six thousand years ago. I keep my mouth shut. No one has stopped progress like the Church. They wanted to kill Galileo.” My father, wearing double sunglasses, looked at the sun again through a little hole he made with his thumb and finger. “When I was little, we went to the Mennonites in Minersvillage, the Evangelical United Brethren in Rexmont and the Methodists in Cornwall. I asked my grandmother whose God was right. She said, “Have faith, Donald. God is who you think He is.’ My grandmother was not a dumb woman. A million years ago we’d be sitting here a mile down under rocks. The Appalachians were much higher then. The rivers flowed north. The Sahara Desert was a forest. Everything is in perpetual motion. I don’t worry about it. One day everything will be answered and if not, not.” The horizon rolled before us. The bitten sun, distilled by winter clouds shone down on the nearby stream, clogged by shining ice. The stream and the sun, the day seemed to move as slowly as the rise and fall of my father’s breath as he watched, his mouth a little open, dark as the wet earth he’ll be digging soon enough in his garden.

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