May 16, 2011

Five years

Dad

We shared
mountains of popcorn
crusted with salt,
coated in butter—
the too-rich concoction,
Mom called it
A heart attack waiting to happen

Summer sausage,
cheese on crackers;
pigs in a blanket—
always accompanied by
a painter’s palette:
ketchup, mustard—

Saltines in soup—
under chili then finished
with melting cheddar,
stringing from the spoon to the bowl
and caught in your beard,
your mustache.

Oatmeal crème pies,
Swiss rolls, sugar babies,
terribly seductive:
a death sentence
for a diabetic, driving
your pancreas into perpetual production

Missing you is a famine,
a stomach too long empty to growl.

-----

I wrote this in Spring 2007 for an intro to poetry class.  It's been five years today that he passed away from pancreatic cancer, which sometimes feels like an eternity and sometimes feels like it just happened.

I think the Anne Sexton quote says it best, though: "It doesn't matter who my father was, it matters who I remember he was."  He was loyal, hard-working, trustworthy, a man of his word, selfless, and determined to do anything to help someone else.  He was an Eagle Scout who truly lived the Scout law (A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent).  In fact, I can think of no better words to describe him; I can actually remember him being each of those things in turn on more than one occasion.

When I was younger--when he was still alive--it would infuriate me to be compared to him, because I only saw his flaws.  He was tempestuous when angered; he was stubborn; he wanted to do things the hard way; he saved everything for some future purpose.  Now, I take any comparison, slight though it might be, with pride. I hope to be as good a person as my father was.

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