A Community Newspaper for the way we live

I’ll tell you how it started out that night:
I’d gone to see my father where he lay,
Determined not to try to make him hear
Or summon up the memory of the guest
Who’d come once more to visit him this night,
In the old folks’ home. Most times he didn’t know
That I was standing there, or who I was.
He hardly ever spoke, for he’d forget
After he’d begun, just what it was
That he had meant to say.
Time was we said we could not shut him up.
There was a night I tried to drive away,
But he would tell me more of his old tales.
That was the night our oldest child was born.
I kept on telling him, “I’ve got to go.
The baby’s almost here.” But he just stood
And kept on talking: how the freight train slowed
Just enough to let him swing on board
And hunker in the corner of the boxcar,
Wind whistling round his head until he almost froze.
Depression years when he followed the fruit harvest.
Now he hardly ever spoke, for he’d forget
After he’d begun, just what it was
That he had meant to say.
Anyway, this night in the old folks’ home–
“Assisted living” now we’re meant to say—
I promised not to play that guessing game:
“You know who I am, Dad? Remember me?
What year is it, Dad? This is your grandson. What’s his name?”
Instead I got down next to his ear and whispered
In the lowest, gentlest voice I could manage, “I recall
A day when I was twelve and we were on a road trip,
Just you and me. We stopped and climbed
A steep hill of manzanita,
Then just a few miles later another covered with snow.
With deep holes in the snow around the tree trunks.
We found out later they’re called tree wells.
That was the day that I remember best.”
He hardly ever spoke, for he’d forget
After he’d begun, just what it was
That he had meant to say.
He struggled to say some words; he’d start
And stop and start again and finally he said,
“I was afraid you’d fall in,
And I would not be able to lift you out.”
Before my Dad fell back upon his pillow,
I might have heard him tell me that he loved me.
I’m pretty sure he told me that he loved me.
I swear to God my Father said he loved me.

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