Sunday, June 20, 2021

June 20: Father's Day, Complicated, "To My Father's Ashes"

No Thomas Merton tonight.  Just a little reflection on Father's Day.

Fatherhood is a complicated thing, full of so many societal expectations.  I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where the fathers I knew were fishermen, deer hunters, and car mechanics.  They wore flannel almost all year, and thought Chuck Norris films were the height of culture.  (Okay, I'm stereotyping here, but you get the idea.)  I didn't get these fathers.

Even my own father.  On the morning I graduated from high school, my father took me to his rifle cabinet and told me I could pick out any gun of his I wanted as a graduation present.  I never went deer hunting, had only fired a gun once or twice in my entire life.  But I picked out a rifle and thanked him.  I think he may have even hugged me and told me he was proud of me.

I know my father was proud of my accomplishments.  He didn't always get my poetry, but he was always in the front row of all of my readings.  And in the front row of every play I acted in or directed.  He supported me, even though he didn't understand me.  I was like none of his other sons.  We had a complicated relationship.

We didn't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, politically or socially.  He was a member of the John Birch Society.  I would have been investigated by Joseph McCarthy if I had lived in the 1950s. (Joseph McCarthy--one of my dad's heroes.)  Yet, I know that he was devoted to his family and would have done anything for his wife and kids.  That was a lesson that stuck with me.  I also learned things I swore I'd never repeat with my own children.  Like I said, my father and I had a complicated relationship.

This Father's Day night, I hope that I have been a good father.  Hope that my daughter and son know how much I love them.  That I would do anything for them.  I've tried to make my relationship with my kids as uncomplicated as I could, because I don't want either of them to be writing a poem 40 years from now that ends with the line "Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through."

I loved my father, even as I struggled with his more problematic characteristics.  I still love my father.  He worked hard his whole life, provided for nine kids.  That's a remarkable feat.  I struggle to pay the bills, and I only have two children.

Father's Day is not easy for many people.  Because of estrangement, death, abandonment, infertility.  I respect that.  Honor that struggle.  Pray for peace of heart and mind.  

Saint Marty hopes he never makes Father's Day a complicated day for his kids.  

And a poem for Father's Day . . . 

To My Father's Ashes

by:  Martin Achatz

Staring at your dust
in this black vase,
I wonder what of you
I possess. The cinder
that was your hands. watered
tomato plants every summer
until they swelled into orange
fists of starfish. Grains of your
crooked spine that kept
you from the missiles and grenades
of Pork Chop Hill and Pusan.
Or the pollen of your lips, tongue
that sipped Seven and Seven
all night until you didn’t remember
stoking the furnace with so much
wood that it roared, turned brick
red, almost reduced the house to char.
It could be the soot that was your testes,
scrotum, vesicles, the place
where the Y of me first swam
in white brine the night
you reached out, atlased
my mother’s body with yours.
Perhaps the ember of calf, shoulder.
Powder of ulna, incisor, humerus.
Or maybe it’s a part of you
I don’t know. The finger
that traced the arc of a neighbor
girl’s breast under a haystack moon.
Your grey eyes, the ones the cried
for two days when your daughter
was born with an extra chromosome
swimming in the pools of her nuclei.
An eardrum that heard Louis Armstrong
coax “La Vie En Rose” from his trumpet
one August night at the Paradise
on Woodward when the Detroit River
was a black tendon of water.
Or a mole on your chest that your bride
kissed over and over on your wedding
night until it blossomed to the color
of lupin.

No comments:

Post a Comment