With Father’s Day on the horizon I find myself wondering why I’ve written almost nothing about my father. I’ve certainly mined other relatives – my mother, grandparents, aunts, even my children, but not my father. The sole exception is a poem I began soon after he died.
It’s not that I didn’t have a relationship with him. Actually, some wonderful writing has been done about absent parents (see Barack Obama’s ” Dreams From My Father”). My father was absent in a different way, emotionally. He was big on criticism, stingy on expressions of affection. I was a disappointment from birth, being the wrong sex. Not having a son added to a current of bitterness in my father. As a child and teenager, I hated and feared his critical attitude towards me. As an adult – and parent myself – I wish I could reach back across the years and try for the bond we didn’t have.
In a way I did this with my one poem. Originally I tried to include every memory I could dredge up, draw what I thought was a full portrait of this inaccessible man. It ran to three typed pages –-single-spaced! When it was rightly rejected by numerous editors, I put the poem away for a few years.
But it meant too much to me to give up on. So I rescued the pages and began revising. As I stoically – painfully – started cutting, the poem began to breathe. Instead of throwing in every memory, I zeroed in on one: the young child I had been, clutching her father’s hand as we wandered past the scary dinosaurs in the Museum of Natural History. The poem tied this in with the adult daughter holding his hand as he lay dying. Eventually I discovered how much could be said without saying it. LESS IS MORE– an adage prized by writers.
The original three pages reduced to just one – and “On The Edge Of My Father’s Dying” became my first published poem.
It’s a belated gift to him that he will never know. But it’s also a gift to myself, as writing can sometimes be . For it not only helped me see my father more clearly, but to unearth the love that lay beneath the rage – in both of us.
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play- both available through Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.