Posts Tagged ‘father’

I count all the Tuesdays, Thursdays
and Saturdays from January to mid-July,
all those days in Florida
when you drove an hour
to dialysis and sat there for hours
as the machines removed toxins
and water from your blood,
then drove an hour home.
I multiply that number times
the number of miles and arrive
at a number that means devotion.
Means grit. A number that means
I will live for you as long as I am able.
Remember, Dad, how no matter
how early you had to rise,
no matter how difficult the drive,
no matter how inefficient the process,
you did it. And every time
you thanked the people
who were keeping you alive.
At the end, when you couldn’t stand,
couldn’t sit, couldn’t lift your own arm,
they took you to dialysis on a stretcher.
When they’d move you,
you’d moan in pain, howl, even,
as they twisted your body
in ways it no longer could twist,
and then, with deep humility,
you’d thank the nurses.
Did you ever see them cry, Dad?
I did. I saw them walk out of the room
into the hall and weep,
so grateful to be thanked
for doing the work that hurts.
Two thousand nine hundred ninety miles.
That was the number for six months.
A number that means life is hard and I want it.
A number that says my body is stopping,
but my love grows.
A number that means, Yes, I will meet you, death.
Butnot yet. Not yet.

PS–I want to honor that my mom drove my dad many of these times, and many other times in other cities–and she, in such courageous, humble ways, was devoted to dad’s health and healing.

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Walking 5th Avenue

I am again fifteen
with my father,
my first trip to New York,
and he is not yet
in life-changing pain,
and we stare
in store windows,
eat street pretzels
and look for sales racks.
I don’t know yet
how he will hurt
too much to walk,
how even standing
will become impossible.
No, in this memory
we are walking
and laughing
as if we will forever,
as if there won’t
be a morning
when I wake in New York
almost four decades later
and reach to call him
and thank him
for that long ago trip,
only to remember
he can no longer
answer the phone.
All day, I hear his laughter
as I walk. All day,
I feel his hand
reaching for mine.

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In the moments after
my father died
I slid next to him on the bed,
and though I held
the anchor of his body,
still warm, I felt untethered
from above and below—
felt the loss of my father
and the loss of my son—
and knew myself adrift alone.

For a long time, I lie there,
too loose, too free,
alone, alone, alone,
and a tender voice
I have heard before
said, Oh sweetheart,
did you forget?

I knew what it meant—
did I forget love would meet me
anywhere I am? And love
showed me in that moment
an infinite sea and said,
Sweetheart, it’s true,
you’re alone. It’s always been true.
And the only thing
that will ever ground you
is not the object of love,
but love itself.

And there in those infinite waters
love baptized me as its own.
No horizon in sight.
And I am not alone.

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Missing My Father

When you miss him, look inside.
            —Deb Stevens, private correspondence

Today when I miss my father,
I hear him in my voice when I say,
You’ll go broke saving money.
I feel his tenderness in the way
I hold my own daughter’s hand.
His laugh blooms inside my laugh
when I giggle hee hee hee.
Here he is, ever inside me.
Returning home from his death,
I feel transformed,
or is it I feel more me—
the me he helped to shape
with his life, the me
he is fashioning with his death,
the me I’m still learning how to be.

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Leaning All the Way In

If I let it be,
grief is a chair
that supports me
when I crumple.
It requires
nothing of me
except that I give it
all my weight.
Limp, I sink in,
and it doesn’t ask me
to try to pretend
I could rise.
It lets me wet leaf.
It lets me empty room.
It lets me vast sky of gray.
It holds me.
I lean in.
I nothing for a time.
I slow ache.
And grief says
yes to me.


oh friends, my father took his last breath this morning just after 5 a.m. he was loving and full of gratitude and
positive and warm till the end. I thank you for all the kind messages I have received–if I do not write you back, please know that I do read every message and thank you by name. I am so grateful for your support. I know the poems have been a fairly relentless chapter of grief–and love. And love. I have never been more in love with the world, even now, especially now. 

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One Last Night

his breathing shallow
still he laughs, says I love you—
this bright falling star

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On the day my father begins hospice,
I watch the pronghorn in the field,
marvel as their brown- and white-striped bodies
nearly disappear in the dead grass where
they graze. If only I could camouflage
my father so death can’t find him, so that pain
would never have discovered him.
Tomorrow, my mother and brother and I
will gather around him the way a herd
might gather, circling him as some antelope
circle their young. But death will come.
And we, unable to run fast enough,
unable to hide, will meet it together.
And if I could fight death, would I? Whatever horns
I have are more for ritual than dangerous.
When death arrives, I want to bring
my softest self. I won’t bargain,
but I’ll tell death it’s taking the best of us—
the one who worked hardest to survive.
When death arrives, I want to ask it, Please,
be gentle. He suffered so much already.
I want to tell death, You don’t get all of him.
I carry in me his goodness, his courage.
While I live, he will always be alive in this field.

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Happy Birthday Dad!

Into the boxes I slip
my father’s birth certificate,
his high school yearbooks,
his wedding album,
and the diploma for his PhD.
I fold waders and coats,
pack saws and hammers,
wires and electrical things
I can’t name—but he can.
I pack journals filled with notes
of his favorite trips,
crossbow arrows
and feathers for tying flies.
But a life doesn’t fit in boxes.
No way to pack his glittering eyes,
his quick smile, the way he laughs
in recognition as I hold up
an old favorite knife.
No way to pack the hard years,
the wrestling with pain,
his drive to show up anyway,
day after day,
determined to bring his best
to the world, determined
to love life outside
the box.

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reminds me of the day
my dad held me
in front of him
while riding his bike
and fifty years later,
I remember most
the moments before
the bite of the spokes
when we were laughing
in the muggy Wisconsin June,
the sky dark with rain,
the joy of being held by him,
the thrill of going fast,
the wind in our faces.
I remember most
how he picked me up
as I cried and carried me
as if I were precious.
Fifty years later,
though he is the one
in pain, he still picks me up
and carries me every time
we speak. Thousands
of miles away, he holds
me close.

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Missing My Dad

I hate riding in boats,
the way it makes
my body want to turn
inside out, hate the way
my body rocks for hours
after I’m back on land.
But I love the way
my father’s hands
rest on the wheel,
the way his eyes
scan the waves,
the easy slope
of his shoulders.
He’s so himself,
so whole, so someone
who I’m glad to know.
Standing on shore,
I wave at his boat,
as he points it
toward the deep.
He waves back
and smiles
with great love.
There are many
kinds of oceans—
time is one.
I hate the distances
we keep.

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