I woke today thinking about my father. He has been with me all morning as I poke through journals and revise old poems. He looks over my shoulder and nudges my pencil. “Get on with it,” he says.
As a young girl (the only daughter in a house full of boys) I thought my father omnipotent. I worshiped him and in his way, he returned the sentiment. Until puberty, I’d do anything to please him – from being a weekend sidekick to achieving good grades in school. I was an early, avid reader because he loved to read, joined a bowling league because he bowled two nights a week and was well-behaved because I couldn’t bear to disappoint him.
And though he’s been gone almost two years now, my father remains a large presence in my life. He’s there in autumn leaves and blue sky days. There when I’m driving alone, radio on, singing off key. There smiling when I’m with my son and granddaughters.
A few years before his stroke, I wrote a poem on aging and role reversals – a poignant poem about my father and me. He’d recently been through a severe flu and had us all worried. As an adult, it was the first time I shared one of my poems with him. I was nervous and the words made me cry (still do).
When I finished reading, all he said was, “That’s not a poem. It doesn’t rhyme.” Okay then … who wants more coffee? He probably didn’t realize how his words hurt me, so I wiped my tears and poured us each another cup.
Later that evening, my phone rang. “Hello,” I said. It was quiet on the other end and then before hanging up, my father’s voice, “That was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.”
you saved me
from the drooling mouth
of the dog next door.
We later became friends (the dog and I)
but I’ll always have that moment
when you leapt the fence
and raced across the yard
to pull me into your protective space.
when we built the tree house
and I stood on the ledge
all the way up. You said,
“Jump. I’ll catch you. Trust me.”
I barely thought twice
before throwing my body into the air
into your arms.
you let me cry then dried my tears
because the kids next door
said my chest was too small and my nose too big.
You didn’t tell me not to care.
You held me until I didn’t care so much.
And when I told you at 20
I was in love
you said you’d love me always.
And at 30, when it was over
you were still there to hold me.
Now, I’m 38
and it’s you with the drooling mouth
you who needs protection.
I want to wipe your tears
but you push me away.
Don’t tell me not to care
it hurts too much this time.
We both know that.
Let me hold you close.