Lines of remembering

Fatherhood

I would write this as a letter but there is no point
as you would not receive it, would not read it, would not respond,
so I write it as verse instead because I want to talk to you

and because poetry, like love, transcends.

It’s dark and gloomy today, steady rain
tossing itself against the windows, not at all
the crisp, bright day it was, that fall
eighteen years ago.


The weather’s playing havoc with my Internet connection
but then, so few things are connecting anymore
as they should, in these dark and gloomy times

you can’t imagine, even though you lived your own.

One of my favorite stories about you: Little boy,
running hard as you could down the old dirt road,
bursting into the house, “Mother! Mother! I just heard on
Grandma’s radio—President Roosevelt is dead!”

She couldn’t believe it, could she, but soon enough,
everyone was wondering: What will happen to
our country now? Who will lead us out of war?
Is it ever going to end?
Is there life beyond?

If you were here, would you recognize our country now?
Eighteen years have come and gone (I think you’d love a GPS
and texting, so much better than e-mail you’d just learned to use)
in the interim of our lifetimes, this last one, an accordion of implosion.

Did I ever tell you I once had a dream
that you and I were standing on a ridge looking out
over a barren land, as if an apocalypse had occurred,
leaving us as the only living things
?

You tried to explain but I couldn’t make out the words,
couldn’t understand, but I knew that you knew why and I wasn’t

afraid, mostly just surprised and curious, looking over that desert wasteland
—I ponder now: Is now what I was seeing then?

Although you aren’t here anymore to say, to lead by example
of unfailing duty, to give insight and wisdom, and perhaps courage

I do wonder if you ever thought of yourself as courageous, despite
your saying that a smart man would have gotten further in life.

No one is smart all the time and how I long to hear
what you have to say, now more than ever, never mind that
I am grown and my children are grown, for I find myself yearning,
returning, to the arrow of the compass that you were.


If I could write the letter, I’d say I miss you, you’ve missed so much,
the boys are well, you’d be so proud. I’d say I took
a corner of your protective cloak and wrapped it
over them for as long as I could, the way you did for me.


If I was granted a wish for changing one thing
in the past, it would be for more carefree times
like the day you raced me on the beach when I was little
and I knew you let me win.


We only did it that once, you running between me and the tide,
your shadow hopping over shells and disintegrating sand castles,
dipping in small hollows, until you swept me up into your young arms,
laughing there with blue eyes, blue sea, in the sunlight.


Yes, that’s what I’d wish, the freedom, the light, the salt, the joy,
the time to play, for it was rare and I doubt if you’d even recall
these moments that stay with me like an old photograph,
fading, becoming fragile, curling up at the edges.

But I still hold on, gently, feeling the pulse of memory
while seeking silences where I can sort
the images and collate them in some semblance of order

when I need it most, and when you seem most near.

These lines won’t bring you back and I don’t wish it, I just trust that
my words, beating like memory, like the waves on the shore,
will ripple on into infinity to the place where our circles coincide,
where you still guide, running between me and the tide.

*******

Just a draft, on the anniversary of Daddy’s passing, September 25th.
Shared for Poetry Friday with thanks to Jone Rush MacCulloch for the invitation to “bring poetry goodness to the world today.”

Photo: Fatherhood. Giuseppe MiloCC-BY

26 thoughts on “Lines of remembering

  1. Wow! This is an absolutely beautiful poem! I love how you have entwined the memories young and old. I love how you kept the beach theme after you shared the memory of running by the water (just once). I love how you crave to tell your father(?) how you miss him. It is stunning; a memoir, memorial, and poem all in one. And, yes, it is even that letter you wanted to write. I have been mulling a similar piece over in my head. A conversation or conversations I’d like to have with my mom – knowing full well they won’t happen. Thank you so much for sharing this poignant and personal piece. Again, it was stunning!

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    • I so treasure your response and knowing which elements struck chords. Yes, it’s a tribute to my father, always solid and dependable; his guidance was always right (hence the compass reference). How I’d love to hear his thoughts on everything going on now. I do hope you will write your piece also and thank you again, so much.

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  2. “Poetry, like love, transcends.” This is a truth that begins your reflective poem, Fran. Our memories float on shorelines settling into our minds. With time, they float to the surface to bring a memory into a living memorial like you did. The continuing mention of the water, shoreline, threaded throughout was endearing. It was wrapped in memory and wishes.
    I often go the sea for peace and wishes for more carefree times but never really voiced that wish as you did. Fran. This is lovely. In my heart of hearts, I think your Daddy is smiling from heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s definitely healing at the sea, Carol – I am sure that’s why my mind pulled up that memory. I do wish, intensely, that I could speak with him and hear his solid, reliable take on current events – and just to hear his voice. Thank you for such a lovely response.

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  3. Dear Fran, I am sorry for your loss. This is very beautiful, heartbreaking, too. You’ve carried those memories into words that are for your father, but feel universal, for every single person that has had to say goodbye to a loved one. I’m grateful that you shared with us and hope that when you are ready, you’ll send it somewhere to be published, to help others know memories can be healing. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fran, that first stanza is a winner. Oh, my goodness…what a connection. I’m taking that first stanza at least as a mentor text for my own writing. Your loved one is incredibly fortunate to have you reaching out and transcending in this way. I’m better for having read this beautiful poem.

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  5. This poem is so full of heart and emotion and real live feelings. I am drawn in completely. I love how you have made this deeply personal poem something universal. I am taken in by this image:

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  6. Continued (Hit the wrong button)
    “We only did it that once, you running between me and the tide,
    your shadow hopping over shells and disintegrating sand castles,
    dipping in small hollows, until you swept me up into your young arms,
    laughing there with blue eyes, blue sea, in the sunlight.” I can remember vacations most with my dad. I guess because he was a doctor and worked so much that vacations were when we had time together. My father is still living, but the separation of quarantine has kept us distant. We are planning to go visit next weekend, though, because my daughter wants to see them before she has her baby, due in November.
    Thanks for sharing such a deep part of yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those lines and images of running on the beach, racing my father that one time so long ago, were the first ones I wrote. They’ve been sitting for several years. I didn’t plan to write this poem at all on the anniversary of his death, but the day weighed so heavy and gloomy – weather-wise as well as metaphorically, of late – that I sought the release in writing. That race wove itself in along along with the apocalyptic dream and overall the longing to just be able to talk to him and hear his take on all that’s happening in the world now. Like your father, he worked all the time. He often chose to work on holidays for the triple-time pay, in order to better care for his family. I am so glad you’re going to see your father and that you’ll all be celebrating the coming of a new life! Thank you for this amazingly lovely response. Margaret.

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  7. This is so beautiful, Fran. The loving connection between you and your father is palpable. I especially loved the lines: ” for I find myself yearning/ returning, to the arrow of the compass that you were.” and “where you still guide, running between me and the tide.” I just had someone send me letters my mother had written her 39 years ago days before she unexpectedly died at 39 years old. After reading those letters, I’m feeling a bit tender again at the long-ago loss and your poem moved me deeply. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this beautiful response, Molly. I can only imagine how tender you are feeling, having received your mother’s letters – what a gift! I wasn’t planning to write this poem, but in thinking of my father’s death, I found myself, for the first time in eighteen years, not dwelling on his sudden passing but really longing to hear what he’d have to say about things at present. He was a reliable compass – my mother said “you could set your clock by him.” I am so glad that line held significance for you. Your reply is deeply meaningful to me!

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  8. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. These are your thoughts and memories, but they unlock a flood of the things I would say to both of my parents. Things I should have said when they were here to hear them.

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    • Thank you for your poignant response, Mary Lee; that my lines of remembering stir a flood within others is so unexpected. I woke up recalling the date and hadn’t planned to write this at all, but the day was so gloomy and increasingly oppressive that by the end, this “non-letter” poured out – a draft of wishing with an aftertaste of comfort, a reaching for a solidity and reliability that seems so elusive these days. I so appreciate your thoughts.

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  9. Wow, Fran! Powerful! I am sorry for the loss of your father. You have written an amazing tribute to him, which has brought tears to my eyes because your memories have transcended into my memories of my father who passed away October 3, nine years ago. Your love for him and his love for you shine through in every line. I feel your emotions, honesty, see the beautiful imagery, and hear your conversation to your father, which I know he heard and loved.

    I’m finding it difficult to choose a line or stanza I love best. I love your voice through the whole poem, how you explained to him in your first stanza hooked me, how you share a story about him and let us hear his young voice in the fourth stanza brings him alive to the reader. These next lines especially resonated with me “to give insight and wisdom, and perhaps courage”, “how I long to hear what you have to say, now more than ever”, and stanzas twelve through sixteen. Yup, I loved the whole poem. What an ending! Thank you for sharing this gift with us.
    I agree with another commenter that you should think of publishing this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gail, thank you for this amazingly thoughtful response; you buoy my spirit with your words! I have been fascinated by the way certain lines or the topic have struck home, individually, for others. When I wrote it, I wasn’t thinking of the universality of loss – it was just a release of longing having built up over recent days with all that’s going on in our country, the world, this year. Then comes the fall, and the anniversary… how I’d love to talk with my father and hear his reliable insights. I suppose it’s tied to a craving for something familiar and dependable – my father was the epitome of that. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me specifics that resonated with you and why – it is incredibly meaningful to me!

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