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For Father’s Day

My Father passed away in the fall, two years ago and since that time I have written several poems and a couple of short memoir pieces about him. He was a remarkable man and was filled with knowledge and stories and songs. It is amazing just how many things one single man can encompass and when he passes, those things are no longer a part of the world. They cannot be accessed through some kind of archive and even though another person may remember  , it is only through that person’s filter that it is reported and so diluted, forever changed and altered. I have decided to gather all these pieces together in a Father’s Day tribute as I remember my Father, and in doing , I hope that you can find a bit of yours and if he is still on this earth I hope that it inspires you to cherish him and forgive him and thank him.

 

 

First October Without My Father

 

The Autumn smells of

dark damp earth

like potatoes kept in cellars beneath houses

or apples stored for Christmas pies,

chrysanthemums that seem to open the pores,

expand the air,

the fragrance of late season roses,

and during a walk in the woods,

embraced by the smell of cedars,

I turn my head and recognize the scent of my father,

caught in the denim jacket

that I borrowed to shield myself

from this  Fall rain.

 

 

My Father’s Poem

 

I gave my Father sticky notes.

He was enchanted.

He wrote “gone to store”, or entire letters on pale yellow.

“There was a male Rosebreasted Grosbeak

at one of my window feeders this morning.

I have only seen two hummingbirds so far.

The Orioles are back.

I long to hear the Whippoorwills.

Love Dad”

 

His search ended, mine begins.

His yearning over, mine never-ending.

 

I long to hear the Whippoorwills

(my heart’s peace).

 

 

The Road

 

Miles and miles of road to come here

but before that ,

dirt roads

brought me to here.

 

Roads

traveled by my father

with his father

in a wagon pulled by horses

brought me here

 

dusty hot roads

edged by cotton fields

brought me here

walking with my mother along

red clay lanes

edged with blackberry bushes

brought me here –

 

My mother walking with

her mother as men

passed on horseback

That road brought me here –

 

both before that and after that

brought me here

where all time combines,

the past,

the present,

the future.

 

Here.

 

 

To Thank Him

      My father died in September and this is the second time I have been back to his house. The first time was a test of will. I cleaned out the refrigerator, threw out the last of the petrified lasagna that someone had brought the week before he died and put in a fresh box of baking soda to absorb the odors of soured milk which I poured down the kitchen sink.

      I sat on the couch where I always had, facing where he always sat in his brown lazy boy rocker recliner that he had kept covered with a large green towel in order to slow down the wearing process. He would settle down in the recliner and have to rock back a couple of times before kicking out his legs and using the handle to extend the recliner platform. I thought of all the times and hours we spent like that, him telling stories of his childhood, how he had grown up in a family of nineteen siblings and the hard days of survival. His voice would deepen in the description of his father and there were funny stories like when he blew up the powder keg after being scolded by his mother for playing with matches but he had not learned his lesson. He would read  Robert Frost and Robert Service, and I would listen as if hearing it all for the first time asking the same questions over and over.

      This time I sat and looked at where he should have been and maybe still is really, as the house is so full of his presence and I thought about his life and how even a couple of months before we knew how sick he was we were arguing about him dying.

       “I was going to go to the dentist to get this cussed tooth removed but I figure there is not much point, Mr. Death will be taking care of that.” 

      “Dad, why in the hell do you have to keep saying that? You put off getting cataract surgery for two years and Mr. Death did not show up…go to the dentist for god sake” , and that would go on and on….

” Dad don’t you think you need to get the roof fixed?”

       “It will last me out.”

       He always said he was going to die, he was convinced of it several times but he had always proved himself wrong and this last time we argued about it he was even surer. He was not sick, he just thought himself old and he was ninety-two. But then he made it through to his birthday and he kept driving his old Jimmy car and feeding his geese and riding his four-wheeler and singing as loud as he could through it all, “Roll on Buddy, don’t you roll too slow….” always singing his songs. 

      He died to prove he was right.

      In my father’s house the clocks were always wrong and they still are, you never really knew what time it was but after all, was it really what you needed to know? Or wasn’t what you really needed to know that it was too late or that you had wasted precious time that could not be recaptured.

      So I swept the floors and took out the trash and emptied a little bit of him out of the house. I fed the geese and they looked at me with a slight twist of their head and their where-is–the–old-guy-who-feeds-us-bread-and-sings-to-us eyes. I read in his books the places he had marked, his favorite passage of The Rubaiyat and the places he always searched for in his genealogies. I drank his Irish whiskey and decided to forgive him for what he did not teach me and for what he did not give me and to thank him for teaching me instead what he thought I needed to know and to understand that he did the best he could.

      When our parents die it feels as if we are going to float away, as if our roots are gone. We lose our grounding but the time we spend adrift is time also lost.

       My father would wind up the clock with those little keys and they made that windingup noise and then he carefully carefully closed them up but they were still always wrong and that makes me think of when I was four and I sang “My Grandfather’s Clock” in a talent competition and then on a local television broadcast and my father teased me saying that he almost took a hatchet to the television to get me out and I thought he actually believed that but even at four I was too kind to say anything and when my father died in this very house where we cared for him in a bed in the living room surrounded by his tall shelves full of books and records and his walls full of clocks my brother carefully opened the clock case and stopped the pendulum and that reminds me of  the song which if you know it , was a very strange song about an old man’s death, “ and the clock stopped , never to run again when the old man died” , a very strange song for  a four year old girl with her shirleytemple curls to sing, but I had no idea what the song was about then and no one else cared, in relation to the cuteness factor, the meaning dimmed.

      So now the geese remain puzzled, the clocks are still wrong and the time is all wound down anyway, but even so, it will not stand still.

 

 

A Daughter Unguarded

 

Dust grows thick on towers of books

left by absence ,

now untouched.

 

Faded titles hint of

eastern forests,

woody plants,

herbal lore,

their bindings cracked and taped.

 

He schooled me in defenses of the flora;

itch of poison ivy

pucker of green persimmon

pain of stinging nettles.

 

Now, will I fall victim,

unaware of dangers all about me,

weaving garlands out of hemlock

wearing nightshade

as a crown ?

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

many years ago I forgave my father for his absence of a sort and now I continue to miss him in his true departure……

One Comment (Add Yours)

  1. Deep. Touching. "He schooled me in defenses of the flora; itch of poison ivy, pucker of green persimmon, pain of stinging nettles." LOVELY.

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