I listen to his wheeze and watch the machine ascend for a full breathe then fall back down again and know I must trek to the mountain once again.
Like my mother, heedless of self and for my sake, will he snap twig after twig to point my safe return?
She died clutching a small cross, a loblolly branch, her bones resting on Appalachian soil, open to the sky and animals delight like her ancestors.
She was a feather. He is a boulder. I can’t lift him on my back. He will roll down the mountain. I can only drag him and watch the pebbles and dirt cascade down to their beginnings. Pull him to last breath.
I hear a twig snap and his hand falls to his side. I release him to the dirt and the mountain cradles him as I stumble home.
“I will pick you up after chemo,” my wife says the next day, as I watch her drive down the mountain road, listening to branches snapping in the fog.