This Man

 

This Man

This man, three years ago, sat by the water and watched the kids play
First to the party and first to leave
He went to bed at five pm,
Took tea and milk and tucked himself in
Woke early in the morning
And then went to the trains
The planes
The games
The hunt
The fish

This man was quiet and tough
I hardly knew him, hardly talked to him at all
He was my Papa
My grandpa if you will
I never sat on his lap or held his hand
Was never read a bedtime story or kissed on the head
He was there, at my Nanna’s house…there
I woke to his voice
Laid in bed ’till it left

This man was scary and I resented his call.
“Dear!” …and my Nanna would come.
Leave our games, bath times, books
And go to him, heed his command.
Visiting there, sometimes we were told bluntly “go home”

This man and I were distant as I grew
Even in the same room
I would awkwardly hug him goodbye
or give him a smile for hello
And try not to avoid him too much in his own home

This man once talked to me
A real conversation
Stories from his time in Arabia
I don’t remember much except that he talked
He talked to me…for an hour or so
To me and no other
To me alone

This man, one year ago, took me flying
In a plane of his own
Showed me that cows are frightened of shadows
How to work the controls
When meeting the instructor
I was introduced as his own
This was the first time, the last time
Only in my memory, the acknowledgement of me
His granddaughter
Someone maybe who he could be proud of…just maybe

And a year went by
Hospital visits and listening to coughs
Early departures from Christmas and whatnot
And time was slipping and this he knew

This man had been able to fix anything
His hands could create and could wipe away
But in this situation, he found God with his fate
This could not be fixed with tools or planned with blueprints

This man, one five o’clock, kissed my Nanna goodnight
went to his room and turned out the light
Woke in the dead of the night
No one knows exactly why
Dialed 817 and was cut off short
My Nanna, the next morning, found him in the floor

The shock of that phone call stopped me in my tracks
The sight of my dad with tears in his eyes
I hugged him and for his loss I cried
Driving to school was a blur
Teary vision and thoughts crowding in
Small, vague memories, few in number, coming to the surface
And the thought that I never knew him and never would…never will

This man in a coffin with tears all around
Surrounded by people and family he knew
They said he was proud of us but, I guess I’ll never know
I cried and I cried for this man I called Papa
A man who for as long as I could remember
Was intimidating and silent, yet there.

And now it seems unreal and not right
After Taps and flag folding
After tears and tissue holding
Nanna’s phone rang
And instinctual…habitual knowing
Had me believing half a moment
It was Papa calling her Home.
“Dear! What’s for dinner. You need to come home.”

Reality sets in and there are no more phone calls
No more orders “go home.”
No more air planes and toy trains
No more milk and tea
No more fishing and fixing
No more blue coveralls
No more thermometer wars
No more calling her home
For this time the Calling Home man was called home.

This man was loved more than he knew
He brought tears upon tears to my cheek
The memories are cloudy and few
But I’ll clinch those few tight
Won’t let them disappear into the night
Arkansas, Hillsboro mornings, and air plane flights
I’ll hold you forever in this heart of mine.

 

____

I haven’t seen this poem in years. I thought that I had lost it when my old computer crashed. My Nanna emailed me a copy today.

Nanna cries every time she reads this. She says its because it makes her sad that my Grandfather missed out on so much. Very stream of consciousness, this poem was my way of making sense of his death and my relationship with him. I wrote a few days ago in Be Still about how writing helps me to make sense of the world; this poem is a good example of that. I had mixed emotions in losing a man who had little interest in me, yet had been a constant my entire life up until that point. At learning of his death, my dad cried. That image is burned in my mind. My dad does not cry. And to add to my confusion, the last year of his life, my grandfather made a small attempt to know me. He did not try hard, but I believe it was difficult for him. I’d like to think that in the end, he would have liked to have known me more. I think this poem, tactfully written or not, is a perfect symphony of conflicting and complex emotions.

One thought on “This Man

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s