Twenty years

September, When Grass Was Green

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow…

(T. Jones/H. Schmidt, 1960)

I remember
our last conversation
in September
twenty years ago

you said you’d
been cutting the grass
and that maybe
you’d overdone it
going back and forth
with your mower
making a pretty pattern
—you thought your chest muscles
were sore from the turning

it worried me

—you were worried
about other things

but happy to be retiring
in two weeks

the thing about last things
is that you don’t know
they’re the last

I remember promising
to come celebrate your retirement
and how we spoke of you
having more time to spend with
your grandchildren

I remember getting the news
a week later
as soon as I walked in from shopping
with the retirement card I just bought
still in my hand

I remember that September day:
so glorious, cloudless
sky so blue it hurt
all the trees still green, sharp-edged,
clinging hard to the light

never again will September
be as bright

or kind

I remember coming home
for the last time

to speak at your funeral

to thank you,
my duty-minded, dedicated

twenty years
come this twenty-fifth day
of September

don’t you know
the grass is still oh so green
and Daddy, you are still
in the scent
of its cutting

Yesterday’s sunrise

with thanks to Susan Ahlbrand for the Do You Remember prompt with musical inspiration on Ethical ELA’s Open Write earlier this week. Susan remembered her own father’s passing with Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September”. I chose “Try To Remember” as a frame instead. The song predates me; I recall hearing it on my father’s radio when I was very small.

I still have the retirement card I bought for my father on the day that he died, with three workdays left to go. The card mentions that it’s a great time to be alive.

Twenty years, and that remains the great dichotomy of late September.

5 thoughts on “Twenty years

  1. Fran, this is a beautiful poem of address to your father. I love your ending. I am sorry for the loss of your father. I’m sure your father loves this tribute to him. That is an amazing sunrise you captured!

    Liked by 1 person

    • If we live long at all, we experience loss of loved ones; we learn (hopefully) not to idolize them, as humans are but flawed humans. Memories tend to sift themselves, leaving us holding onto nuggets of the good. My father died suddenly on the eve of his retirement…we were closest in those last years preceding it. Family portraits are seldom as lovely as we’d wish to paint them. There are many deep, sad, untold layers – a whole ripple effect – connected to the loss of my father, not to mention the initial engulfing rage – a vortex – at my sense of injustice over the timing. I have many humorous recollections of him as well as an abiding sense of compassion and gratitude for his impeccable sense of duty. These are the nuggets that remain as the seasons roll on and the ghosts stir. The scent that grass gives off when it’s cut is actually a mechanism for healing itself… I remember all the nights Daddy got up, sacrificing his sleep to tend to me when I was sick …yes, he’s forever in that scent.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s