Archive for June 19th, 2022

My Father at 85

DadMy Father At 85

His large ears hear
A hermit wakes
and sleeps
in a hut underneath
his gaunt cheeks.
His eyes blue,
alert, dis-
appointed and suspicious
I do not bring him
the same sort of jokes
the nurses do.
He is a small bird
waiting to be fed,
mostly beak,
an eagle or a vulture
or the Pharoah’s servant
just before death.
My arm on the bedrail
rests there,
relaxed, with new love.
All I know of the Troubadours
I bring
to this bed.
I do not want
or need
to be shamed
by him
any longer.
The general of shame
has discharged him
and left him in this
small provincial
Egyptian town.
If I do not wish
to shame him, then
why not
love him?
His long hands,
large, veined, capable,
can still retain
hold of what he wanted.
But is that
what he desired?
Some powerful
river of desire
goes on flowing
through him.
He never phrased
what he desired,
and I am
his son.

–Robert Bly (1926-2021)

He never phrased what he desired/ and I am his son

I was going to share some typical Father’s Day prose when I came across this poem, My Father at 85, from Robert Bly.

It surprised me at how much it seemed in line with my experience with my own father at the end of his life. Roles reversed, shame lost, the idea of him being a small bird waiting in his bed to be fed, and the realization that you never really knew the totality of that person, his true desires and dreams. Not even sure he had them.

And I am left to wonder if that is the legacy passed down to me, to end this life in that same way, as an enigmatic character with unphrased desires and dreams.

That might not be the best way to celebrate the day. But it is honest. And there are plenty of other moments in the memory bank– good and bad, highs and lows, some filled with laughter and happiness, and some that plead to be forgotten.

I suppose that’s the life of every parent. It will never be perfect. That’s too high a bar for anybody.

My own dad wasn’t perfect. He had plenty of shortcomings and, I am sure, plenty of unspoken desires.

Like every parent.

Like every person.

I am just grateful he was there and did what he could. I guess the best thing I can say about my dad is not that I loved him but that, at the end of the day, I liked the guy.

For this Sunday, here’s an oldie from Clarence Carter that I distinctly remember listening to with my dad in the car back in 1970 when the song came out. It was a song that always got a noticeable response from him. I didn’t think about it at the time, but his own dad had died just a year or two before. I have no doubt the words to the song hit some chord in him.

Here’s Patches. Happy Father’s Day.

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