For my father, long after his stroke

Photo by lauren lulu taylor on Unsplash

He is the shining knight of my youth,
donning dark blue polyester baseball shorts.
My provider, my protector, in a
pseudo fu-manchu style mustache
dribbling down his chin like
moss on an oak tree.

He is a rugged outdoorsman,
sending me up tree stands and
digging with bare hands in the moist,
crumbly dirt of the garden in search
of worms that twist and writhe when
pierced with the metal barb of a fish hook.

The man who taught me to love
sitting around a camp fire, drinking
cheap canned beer, eating hot dogs,
telling ghost stories, and reminiscing
about summer camp.

He is the man rumbling down the road in a
rusted out beat-up pick-up truck,
dragging a bass boat and singing Jim Croce
songs laughingly out of tune.

The softball player celebrating wins or losses
in a cloud of summertime insects swarming beneath
the light of a parking lot street lamp, where
sometimes he would let me try a sip of his beer.

He is the Neal Cassady of my road trips,
the tireless, passionate driver waking in the dark
hours of a pre-dawn morning to race
down the highway in the glory
of a rising golden-hued sun.

He is the man who loves my mother,
with kisses before bed,
frivolous jewelry on holidays,
adoring looks as she tells a story,
and the un-wavering acceptance of her
other children as his own.

The man who showed me that a person can
be better than how they were raised,
a beaten and abused child can grow up to be
a loving and affectionate father.

He opened my ears, and my soul,
to the beauty of silence, the intimate sounds
of the forest; the delicate, tentative steps of deer
in dry, ravaged fields of harvested corn, the plunk
of a frog breaking the surface of cool, still water beneath
dripping branches of weeping willow, the rhythmic patterings
of rain drops in puddles as thunder rolls gently and defeatedly away
into the distance, the faint plop of snowflakes landing on lashes and camo-covered shoulders.

He is the man who now cannot always remember my name
(but knows me still for his daughter)
the man who was supposed to share these moments with my daughters,
but must content himself with sitting stoically around a fire
in the back yard, listening as they ramble on,
the man who walked me down the aisle,
not because I believe in some ridiculous tradition of
brides as transferable property,

but because I now know what it means
to say ‘I wish we had’.

He is the man who reminds me of crisp autumn mornings
warming cold feet by the fire, eating hash and eggs for dinner,
sitting stoically in a boat on a calm, quiet, glimmering lake,
or back-packing in rain and snow.

The man who blessed me with the knowledge of
unconditional love.
If my daughters remember me as fondly as I remember him,
then my life will have been as meaningful as his.

author, poet, storyteller, podcaster, mother, wife, traveler, questioner

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