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Posts Tagged ‘father’

Small Things

Small things aren’t just important,

says my father. They’re everything.

And I think of how,

night after night, he’d lie

on his back on the floor

and bench press me

as I stood with one foot

in each of his hands.

Years later, every morning

he’d lift me with a phone call—

This is the Broadmoor. This is your

morning wake up call.

He’d say it in his snootiest,

haughtiest British butler voice.

And years later,

when we hold hands

he rubs his thumb across my thumb,

a small, familiar gesture of love.

Now, wishing I could hold

his hand while we sit

in different rooms together

a thousand miles away,

I can almost feel

the pad of his thumb

move across my knuckles

the way wind moves over water

and creates the weather.

It lifts me.

It’s everything.

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Already he’s lived a dozen years longer

than any other man in his bloodline.

One died of malaria. The rest of heart attacks.

Not one of them knew how to show love.

Sometimes a river changes its course—

perhaps slowly, eroding over centuries.

Perhaps all at once in a mighty flush,

as after a flood or an ice-floe.

I want to ask him how change happened in him—

how the impulse toward anger

rechanneled into tenderness,

into patience, into a willingness to be vulnerable.

I want to believe the same might happen for the world—

that by tending our hearts more carefully,

we might jump the banks of what seemed possible.

We are all of us here to be changed.

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Lights Out

 

 

We would be tucked into our twin beds,

and dad would sit in the door way.

Every night, he’d tell us a story about a boy

and a girl who were very much

like my brother and me, only they lived

amongst the dinosaurs. I don’t remember

how the stories went, but I remember

how I loved them, how my father’s voice

became part of the night, how everything

always turned out right for the kids

in the story. How much I wanted

to be that girl who rode on a pterodactyl,

and how grateful I felt to be the girl I was,

snug under the thin blue blanket,

our small room a cave where anything

could happen, the low tones of my father

quietly cradling me toward sleep.

 

 

 

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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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