I didn’t have an old man until a few years ago. Some tender moments of wisdom shared with fleeting father figures; with taxi drivers, in hardware stores. Everyone else’s dad always laughing at my jokes. I looked for my dad for years; in hard work, and in shame and in seeking approval. He wasn’t in any of those places. He never showed up.
Fathers day’s a weird day when you don’t have one. When you have a mother who stood up and stood in. Who raised you completely and in spite of how hard it was for your heart to blossom in the long shadow of someones absence. I fell in love with what I didn’t have. Chased that, hard. Trying to cast sparks from stones I could get no blood from. Though every day she loved me. Loyally. And every birthday there was a party and presents and a cake that looked like a pony. And I was sneaking out before the sun, checking the mailbox in secret, in shame, for word from him. Something to say, I’m happy you’re alive. I acknowledge you. But nothing came. Though I checked every hour until bed. And every year until I was an adult. I don’t check anymore.
Yesterday, on Father’s Day, my Dad picks me up for dinner. We couldn’t look more different. His accent tells a story of how far he’s traveled to be with us; how important we must be for him to do that. And we get souvlakis though they’re not the same as when he was young, in Athens. And we talk about missing home even when you’re in it; all those places you can’t return to. The geography of disaster. The importance of garlic. And we’re laughing. When we get home, to the house he shares with my mother, everything he does for her is love, love, love. From where he parks the car, to how he holds her in conversation. Every day he loves her. Loyally. He’s always thinking of her. People don’t realise how special that is, to be in someone’s thoughts. You really feel it when you’re not.
I cut my finger last week, making the lunches. Trying, trying, trying to get everything done. And last night, at nearly 31, my Dad said ‘oh, darling!’ when I showed him. And got up from the dinner table to put a plaster on the cut. To address the wound. To show me he cares that I’m hurting. And I commit this all to memory, the best way I know how. I write it down. These love letters; to myself; to you.
I’m thinking of you.
A happy Father’s Day.
Proud and privileged to again be a part of Phantom’s Poetry on Posters campaign. If your part of the world could benefit from a little love poem, let me know. I’ve posters to post you.
Viva poetry! And, as always, keep the faith.
Previous poster here.
It often goes like this, for example: gets Rubik’s cube for Christmas; immediately solves 2 sides of the Rubik’s cube; fascinated, dismantles the Rubik’s cube; is then unable to reassemble the bloody Rubik’s cube, because, I’m not sure if you knew this dear readers, but they’re not actually supposed to be taken apart (see also: vcr’s; cell phones; torches.)
Your genius will then be inconsolable at the loss and no amount of rational discussion or empty threats/promises (which ever you have more energy for) will rectify this. Prepare to be emotionally exhausted for the rest of your life. For this I have no advice besides that which is applicable to all parents, and should be the only things written in all those bloody parenting books: try not to lose your shit.
All the soft toys in your house will have elaborate names. And phone numbers. And interests. We have a hedgehog here who goes by Mr Prickle Wiggley-Pants. Or Max, for short. Max doesn’t want me to disclose his contact information on the internet, but doesn’t mind if I mention that he was a semi-professional soccer player in his homeland of Spain. He also enjoys sleeping under the couch, because it’s the only place in the house that’s quiet. I have some theories that he may be in political exile. The guy gets a lot of hushed phone calls, you know? Then there’s a lobster named Bubba who appears to have embodied the spirit of James Brown. I could go on.
You will be woken regularly with questions which you have no idea how to answer, but must, because this is your life now. And also, because if you do not answer, the question will just be repeated incessantly until you make something up. I do not advise this, however, on account that one question will invariably lead to 6000 questions and it’s only so long before you will find yourself trying to explain relativism with an orange or concepts of theology on a magnadoodle.
Raising a genius will make you smarter, out of sheer necessity. Nothing will make you regret not finishing your English degree like having to resort to google when in discussion of submerged similes. With a 4-year-old.
Everyone is asleep and I am making your lunch. Buttering wholemeal sandwiches and filling them with ham and cheese and lettuce. Wrapping them in baking paper.
You stumble in, pyjama’d. You’re still warm with sleep. You eat 3 Weetbix for breakfast and drink a glass of water and we sit together in the morning sun that has swallowed the kitchen.
You get dressed in the lounge, in clothes laid out for you the night before; last night’s tomato sauce sponged off your blue jeans. You’re ready to go. I’m only pretending I’m ready.
I hold you in my arms on the front step and we take a photo. I want to commemorate the moment some other way than this; some way that other people do; covering all my bases, preparing for whoever you may become. Trying, always, to plan for all futures. You look so big in my arms we both look like children.
You call back through the gate, ‘Mama! I need a kiss!’, though you’ve had an even hundred already this morning. I have tried not to tell you to have a great day. Tried to keep my adjectives from expecting too much. Wanting you to be able to identify your own experience without it growing from some sense of my expectation. ‘I hope you learn something cool, Bubba’, I say. My cheek to yours.
Your sister insists on waving you goodbye on the street. She calls it ‘waving out’, which, like so many things she does, has a certain sense of propriety, though she’s half in pyjamas. You’re both endlessly charming. The sky is so blue.
She stands by your door and waves a big wave. You roll down your window and she clambers across the gutter in ever-bare feet to high-five you. ‘See you later, Alligator!’ you yell at each other down the street, until you are out of sight.
I’m sitting on the back deck drinking a cup of tea. I love the Blue Willow china pattern; it reminds me of my childhood. Mabel’s just joined me.
I broke the head off the broom yesterday, sweeping bricks. Mae has fallen in love with the handle. She spins it expertly and it comes to rest by her side; she’s like something medieval. She’s still in her pyjamas. She’s golden in the sun.
‘What’s the opposite of a fairy?’ she asks me. ‘A mermaid?’ I venture, knowing that’s not quite right, but she’s onto something else.
‘Come ‘ere, dragon!’ she yells at the dog. ‘I’ve got a few ideas for you! On how to be fierce!’.
Mabel: I wish we could get inside the T.V! Mama! The dog is kissing you! That means he likes you. I think he loves you, Mama. He is kissing your face, and I am rubbing the kisses in! So they don’t blow off in the wind!
It is 6.30 am.