The little blackbird catches my eye, hurtling purposefully toward the slender tip of a spiky desert agave to my left. He’s going to smash into the side of the building, I think, but he snags the top of the succulent—an arrow landing squarely on target—and swings around to perch on his fragile peak. Youth.

My grinding joints have slowed my walk enough to notice this bird’s acrobatics. I imagine flight, how it feels to ride the updrafts from the ocean, across the wildlife sanctuary, to where our high-rise condos make an aerial playground for winged creatures. I sit with the soaring sensation for a while.

I recall split-second agility with a whiff of nostalgia. Crouching, lifting, skipping, running, taking the stairs two at a time, not stopping to catch my breath, loaded with bags and books and babies.

Sadness. No more skidding to perch atop highest branches. Burdened by stairways, tethered to constant mental reminders. Turn off the stove. The keys are in my hand. Stay present. Feed the cat. I remind myself to clearly know what I feel. And I wonder, as I slow down to let my husband catch up, what it means to accommodate another person’s decline. To walk in their shoes? What does it mean to be self-aware? Sadness.

It comes to me that I didn’t really want to know my father. I was too frightened, even as I searched for his humanity, when I tried to draw him out in his last days. I wanted him to see me, to see the actual me, not the child he manipulated. I couldn’t see him through my terror.

No wonder flight has been second nature until now, smashing into the side of the building.