The Night Joe Left

October 2, 2008

Joe asks me
to stay,
to keep
the earthly vigil
into this night.

He speaks no words;
nor do his eyes
look upon me.
No one knows
except he
and I.

This father cannot
take leave of his family
while lying helpless –
unable to whisper
“don’t worry”
unable to say

the others begin
to go home.

It will be better
this way.
I the sentry
who falls asleep,
he the spirit who sheds
this breaking body.
this sweet life…

Joe continues to stare
at a ceiling he does not see
while his inner core
prepares for

Across the hall
irritated alarms split
the midnight silence
as some poor soul
gets up to

tell him
he can go – it is okay
to go.

Sitting in the visitor’s chair
at three
I fall

he presses my shoulder.

I awaken.

He is gone.

As a young boy, I did not know what was going on in the classroom. There was no such thing as ADHD or LD back then. It was dismissed as laziness or stupidity. Participles, logarithms, declension, reading, speed, memorization, and athletic coordination – I was always on shaky ground.

My handwriting was neanderthal and my study habits avoidant. I spent my school days furtively staring out big windows. Birds were my envy as they flew across the ever changing sky. On dreary wet days I turned to my pencil (missile) and pen (rocket ship).

I was the oldest of two, then three, then four, then five, then six, and later seven. It became progressively easier to underachieve in this burgeoning post war blue collar Catholic family.

My dad worked three jobs. Mom cooked, sewed, scrubbed, ironed, washed, mopped, and all the while monitored an ever expanding gaggle of robust strong willed children . We eventually overwhelmed her resources. We were like big fleshy ants.

Play and television were my refuge. The tube allowed me to escape instantly. Far away places, adventure, and fame were my fantasies. I would spend hours in bed before sleep concocting gallant stories in my mind with me as the intrepid hero.

My favorite thing of all was Boy Scouts. It allowed me to go camping and play with fire – to go away and have adventure – to take on whatever nature could dish out. It taught me I could do things well. I learned stuff like Morse code and survival skills. I became Order of the Arrow and attended National Leadership Camp. Too bad I let my buddies talk me into quitting.  They thought boy scouts was uncool.

I traded confidence and growth for “cool”.   It was like trading hiking boots for hair gel.

be the embracer

February 14, 2008

Love I

love is a choice
do not wait for one’s embrace
be the embracer

image source: Harvey Edwards

no hard feelings

December 7, 2007

Saw a man jogging…
he looked like dad.

I tried not to wish
it was him.

I tried.