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Posts Tagged ‘father’

By Example

 

 

 

He taught me you can never have too much love

or too much ice cream in the freezer. That it matters

how you shake someone’s hand. He taught me

 

to pile wet seaweed on a bare patch of dirt

so the earthworms will come to the surface.

He taught me how to cast, to set the hook, to filet.

 

He taught me to cheer for myself. Once,

he taught me to say no, and to mean it,

and we shouted it over and over into the phone,

 

our voices a joyful chorus of refusal. He taught me

that despite unceasing pain, you can still

be grateful to be alive. That it is possible

 

to love someone very different from you.

That you can go to different schools together.

He taught me to take life seriously, and then

 

to speak in made up languages and giggle till you cry.

He taught me you can’t save everyone, but

you can save a few. And it’s important that you do.

 

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And as my mother steeped toward slumber,

her thin body wired to monitors,

there, surrounded by incessant beeping

and the red and green mountains and valleys

of pulse and pressure and the slow drip

of IV tubes finding her veins, yes,

there as her speech became mumbly and her

eye lids heavied, my father leaned over

the rails of the hospital bed to smooth

her gray hair and kiss her lips and whisper

I love you. And she rallied a smile and

whispered it back. And there, in the sterile room,

with all its instruments of cardiac measurement,

there was nothing, nothing that could chart

how open my heart, how—unable to hold

all the love I felt for them both—it broke

in the most beautiful way. How I prayed

it would stay that open, that broken, that whole.

 

**

Dear friends, thank you for all your good wishes. After having a heart surgery go wrong a few days ago, my mother was released today from the ICU and is now resting at home, and though she is not out of the woods yet, she is not in imminent danger. It’s been very scary and I thank you for all your thoughtful messages and prayers and thoughts. Rosemerry

 

 

*

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I should have raised dogs.

That’s what my father always said

when I did something stupid.

Like when my friend and I were twelve

and we snuck into Raiders of the Lost Ark

with two seventeen-year old boys.

And there was dad, waiting

outside the theater looking like

exactly what he was—a rabid dad

hellbent on scaring the shit out of any boy

who might have unvirtuous thoughts

about his girl. He never said

what kind of dogs—poodles or labs

or mutts. I can just see him

walking the corridor of his kennel,

all the dogs barking. But dogs weren’t

his calling—the crates, the training,

special diets, vets. No,

he was the master of loving me

through my crazy mistakes

and my hormonal angst and my sudden refusal

to eat meat. I still smile thinking of

the way he would sit on the couch

and hold his arm open for me

to come sit beside him then snuggle.

The way he bought me a book

to decode my dreams. The way he took me

to piano lessons every Saturday

morning, then took me out for brunch

so we could talk. The way he still listens

when I’ve done something stupid

and then tells me he loves me.

Never once, despite all his lamentations,

did I think he would exchange me

for a chihuahua or beagle. No, there

was something almost sweet in his wish,

a hint of surrender in it, the sound

of his heart opening just a little bit wider

to let in the world, unleashed as it is.

 

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And when my dad said,

“You’ve gotta be shitting me,”

he meant, “I love you.”
And when he exclaimed,

“Christ on a bike,”

he meant, “I love you.”

And when he said,
“Turn off the TV,”

he meant, “Turn off the TV.”

And when he said,

“No,” I knew

he meant, “I love you.”

It was, in fact, easy

to translate, though sometimes

I didn’t like the native tongue.

But I felt that love in every word,

the love beyond syntax

love beyond lexicon,

love big enough to hold

us both for a lifetime

and then be passed on.

 

 

 

 

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Wish

 

for my father

 

 

And when at last

the healing comes,

 

may it come like rain,

like rain after a long drought,

 

so soft that at first

you won’t be sure

 

it is raining,

but the fragrance

 

will overcome you,

green and wet,

 

and the world

will look dewy and

 

you’ll feel it in your lungs.

Yes, may the healing

 

arrive in a way that

astounds you,

 

as today when the rain turned

long and steady,

 

the kind that touches

and changes everything,

 

changes things so completely

you almost can’t remember

 

what it was like before,

yes, may healing come like this

 

so that everywhere you look,

all you see is promise.

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One for My Dad

 

 

 

so tender his tears

that thirty years later

I find them in my own eyes

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for Billy Miller, remembering events on January 4, 2012

 

 

When the man pulled my father

from the icy waters of Lake Michigan,

he did not know years later my step-daughter

would need someone to buy her a sweater

so she would feel nurtured, did not know

that my son would need someone

to make a mosaic with him so that he

could feel loved, did not know

that my daughter would need

someone to tell her that she

was beautiful. When the man

pulled my father out of the water—

my dad had been fishing alone—

that off-duty fireman couldn’t have known

that years later this very daughter

would sit beside her father and hold his hand

and weep at the simple gift

of being able to hold his hand.

The fireman was doing what he knew to do—

to rush to the person in need of help.

He didn’t think then of the other lives

blessed by the man. Did not think

of the other lives he blessed with his hands

when he chose to try, though the odds

of saving the man were low.

He knew only to reach.

Years later, my mother still sleeps

beside the man that was pulled

from the winter lake.

Give us hands that know to reach

for each other—stranger, neighbor,

friend. Give us hands that unthinkingly

choose to save the family

we’ve never met.

 

See the news story here.

 

 

 

 

 

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for my father on his birthday

 

 

I learned from my father to be silly,

to speak in strange accents, to make up

odd lyrics, and to hum when I don’t

know the words.

 

He taught me how quickly a car can turn

for a rummage sale sign,

and how easy it is to find treasure.

 

He taught me always to have a plan—

a one-, a five- and a ten-year plan.

You can always change the plan,

he says, but you need at all times

a one-, a five- and a ten-year plan.

 

I learned that even the strongest people

cry and that ice cream can save a day.

 

He taught me to use a chainsaw, shoot a gun,

drive an ATV, and wear dresses.

 

My father’s eyes sparkle, something

no one can teach, but I learned

it was possible for someone to shine

from inside.

 

His poem about his father

would be a very different poem.

There are people who give to the world

what they were not given themselves.

 

My father taught me I could be anything,

then accepted me for who I was.

 

I learned I could fail and still be loved.

In every room I enter, I bring my father—

don’t be surprised when I can’t stop

giggling, when I ask you

about your plans.

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It began as my father cheering for me,

he’d count it off, then chant low and bright,

One, Two, Three, Yay Rox!

 

He used it often—for curtain calls

and piano recitals and catching fish

and semester finals. And he’d use it,

too, when I’d come in blue

with rejection letters or a broken heart,

and he’d say it softer, with a squeeze and a hush,

One, Two, Three, Yay Rox.

His is a heart of sun.

All moments are moments worth honoring.

What does not makes us more wholly ourselves?

 

And then, I don’t remember when,

he changed the rules and made me join in.

Made me say the five words together with him,

whether I wanted to or not,

One, Two, Three, Yay Rox!

 

How my own tongue stumbled, still sometimes does,

but always, his voice is there beneath my own,

steady and confident, tender and clear.

After years decades of cheers, I daily

harvest the wealth.

How wise, the father, who gives

a girl herself.

 

 

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Out the window the world is reassembling itself. The shades of green begin to emerge in the field—so many greens. Some part of me wants to name them all—emerald, sage, Kelly, lime, avocado, moss, spring. I want to name them not to organize them, but to celebrate each one.

 

Last week I did a training on how to assess parental affection. It’s a funny idea, the quantification of affection. It reminds me of the way children will sometimes fling their arms back behind their shoulders in an awkward joy and say, “I love you thiiiiiiiis much.”

 

One of the markers for affection is parental use of endearments—honey, sweetie, pumpkin, darling. As the evaluator, I am asked to mark if this is absent, present or emerging.

 

I don’t think you ever called me honey or sweetie, Dad, in fact, no generic terms of endearment. You always had your own special names for me that emerged out of play—Penelope, Reesmorie, Rosamarinipuscavazini, Roxanne the Foxanne, Rox. I always knew I was special to you, branded by your love of silliness, your love of me. And sometimes, when I was down, I would call you, and just hearing you say your special name for me made life seem just a little bit better.

 

The greens outside the window are brighter now. They seem to suggest an infinite potential inside a finite range. I know it is just the bending of light, but it thrills me.

 

This morning, I would like to give you this sense of infinite possibility, offer it to you while you are far away in a hospital bed and it feels as if the options are closing. Inside that finite window of options, there is an infinite potential for healing. We couldn’t possibly name all the available outcomes, though I suppose we could rate them as absent, emerging and present.

 

What is present is the enormous love I have for you. I’m not interested in measuring it, really, just in giving it to you, letting you know how I celebrate you. As if with love alone I could take away the pain you are in.

 

Who am I kidding? I guess I do wish I could express the extent of love so that you could feel the infinite ways it unfolds in the finite space of my heart. And though the only name I have for you, Dad, is generic, I wish that by saying your name on the other end of the phone, things might feel just a little bit better.

 

Dad, I love you, thiiiiiiiis much,

Roxanne

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