Celebrating Father’s Day

I want to give a shout out today for all the Dads out there. I did not know my father. My mother left him when I was six months old for what many would consider dereliction of duty. He just wouldn’t work and take care of the family. So my mother got the hell out of Dodge and never looked back.

In all the years after that, not once did he make an effort to contact me. I heard from my older brothers that my mother had refused to let him see me. But even as an adult, he never gave the old college try. And I can’t see my mother refusing him from seeing me.

So fathers, Dads, have always been a mystery to me. But I think they are mysteries to those who have Dads.

Anyway I have two poems and two songs here that celebrate children’s relationships with their fathers. The first is Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays”.

The second is Seamus Heaney’s “Digging”:

Here is Dougie Maclean’s “Scythe Song“:

And finally Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son”:

Happy Father’s Day, y’all.




His Zhivago

Zhivago loved Lara. Once a week he hitched up his sled and flew into town and made love to her. Did his wife ever know? Of course, Tonya knew. But Yuri was a poet. Poets are different. They love more than the ordinary human. And deeper.

Tonya had never lacked for Yuri’s love. He loved her truly. She knew that but her love was not enough. Yuri had more love to give than she needed, than she could take.

Harley knew that his wife was a poet like Zhivago. He had known about the affair for several months now. At first, he was hurt. Then he realized his Ann was with Harley when he needed her. She never took time or space away from their marriage. She was totally present for him when they were together. She seemed to have more love to give him. So, he trusted her and continued to trust her with his love.

Why Ann needed more than he gave or could give him, Harley did not know. Did it have to do with the poems she wrote? They were not love poems. They were poems of the earth, the soil, the farm, the animals. There was one he especially loved. It was a poem of their sheep dog. A dog they called Dawg.

It was not one of her longer poems. Only ten lines. But the poem had a life to it. One of the lines was: “Around and around Dawg runs, herding sheep to their destination, wool shearing.” That was Dawg.

“I have a book,” Ann told him one morning.

“You have a book?” he said, smiling with his love for the poet who was his wife.

“Yes,” she said. “Finally.”

She handed him her book. “Read it please.”

She left to feed the chickens and he read. He consumed the poems. They were like a meal for his soul. A feast. As he read, he realized the poems were a celebration of their lives on the farm. Tears fell from his eyes.

Later she told him about Morris. “I have been having an affair.”

“I know,” Harley said.

“I didn’t know you knew.” There was grief in her voice as if she knew her marriage was over.

“But I did.”

“It’s over.”

Harley was quiet, listening to his heart.

“I now realize,” she said, her voice a cry against the loneliness and the pain if he left her, “what I would lose if I lost you. You, and this farm, are my life.”

He didn’t need to know but he asked anyway. “Why did you do it?”

“I was blocked. I couldn’t write anymore. I was written out. Then it happened. And each time we had sex.” She did not say “make love”. “Each time we had sex, a poem began to form. A poem of you and the farm. And the betrayal. But it’s over now.”

And it was. He knew every time he held Ann that it was over. He knew every time he saw her smile or her sadness, each time she spoke, he knew that it was over. She would no longer go chasing rainbows. Her rainbow was the farm and his arms.

His Zhivago had returned and she would not be going off to some Morris for the love she needed. Harley was enough for Ann and he loved her even more for that.

Sometimes It Takes Two

From the first moment, Jon and Eileen loved the church. It was small, only holding about two hundred folks. More a chapel than a full-size church, and definitely not a mega or a cathedral. Just perfect for Eileen and him.

The couple, in their early fifties, walked around the grounds till they found the fountain behind the building. It sprang out of a pond. Eileen looked at her husband. “It’s a lovely place. I love it.”

“Then I’ll accept,” Jon said. Had he not received her approval the answer to the church committee would have been no. From the first moment since they started dating, Eileen had veto power over any decision he made.

Then they went to tour the parsonage nearby. Eileen’s only comment, “It needs work.”

Jon brought this up to the Deacon’s Committee. “We’ll take care of it,” they agreed. They wanted this man and his wife to pastor their church. It had been six years since their full-time pastor of thirty years died.

Over the years the Committee had interviewed a number of men and a few women for the position. None fit the bill. Several came close. One, a woman, came very close. But there had been something about the husband. He didn’t feel right. Two months after the interview, they later found out, he had cheated on his wife and she had committed suicide. No, the pastor came as a couple or not at all.

“When can you move in and begin?” Deacon Rich asked. He was head deacon and chairman of the committee.

Jon looked at Eileen, then back at the deacon. “How ‘bout the first of next month?”

“That would be fine,” the deacon said.

As the couple drove the hundred miles or so back to their temporary home, the two rode in silence. They had waited two years to find the perfect people for them to shepherd. They were ready for this new start. There had been so much struggle in their lives. They had been single until they were forty. Both had had disastrous relationships. Both had grown up in abusive homes. Both had failed at just about everything they had done.

Until they met in a bar one night ten years ago. Earlier in the evening they each were abandoned by their dates. They were just about ready to go home with anyone, so great was their loneliness. Eileen sat down beside Jon.

“Scotch,” she ordered from the bartender. Thoughts of suicide ran through her head. Bad relationships, bad job, lousy life, she was thinking.

Jon turned to the woman sitting next to him. Somehow he knew that his life was about to change. Somehow he knew he was about to become someone he never thought he could be.

He smiled at Eileen. For some reason, she smiled back. She wasn’t sure why. She decided to take Jon up on his smile. “I’m Eileen and I drink my scotch straight.”

“I’m more a rum and coke man myself,” Jon said. “And my name is Jon.”

The bartender brought her drink. She took a sip, then asked, “What is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you?”

“It’s hard to choose. There have been so many.”

“Pick one. The most recent.”

“My date went to the bathroom and didn’t come back.”

“Did she leave you with the bill?”

“Not only that. She stole my wallet.”

“That’s pretty bad.” Eileen said, then she considered what to do next. The one thing she did not want to do that night was to go home alone. “Would you like to go home with me tonight?” she offered.

“I’d like that very much.”

When they left the bar, they walked down the street and headed toward Eileen’s apartment. Not knowing what to say next, they both said nothing. Suddenly Eileen’s heel broke. “Damn,” she said, then laughed. “Well, that makes for a perfect evening.”

Jon gave her his arm to help her steady herself. “What’s the matter?” He was thinking there was something wrong with him. There wasn’t. He was just fine.

“I broke my heel,” she said and removed the shoes from her feet, then the other one. Then she laughed.

Jon liked her laugh. It was then that they noticed a small chapel. It was an out-of-the-way place, set off from the street.

“What do you think?” Jon asked.

“Let’s see if it’s open.”

They looked at the name of the chapel. St. Jude’s Chapel, it said.

“Patron saint of lost causes,” Eileen informed Jon.

The chapel door was open. They went inside. The chapel was lit by candles. There was no one there. They found a pew and sat down side by side. For the rest of the night, they sat in that chapel and didn’t say a word. Then Eileen glanced at her watch. “Oh, my God,” she said. “It’s seven a.m.”

Jon and Eileen walked out into the fresh air. “Would you like to get some breakfast?” she asked.

“Then what?”

“I don’t know. Guess we’ll figure it out.”

Near 500 words: Motherhood

“I didn’t do it, Mommy,” seven-year-old Winnie said, looking up at her mother with those pitiful green eyes.

Pooch, the white mutt, leaned his head against Winnie’s.

Sandy stared down at her daughter. “What am I going to do with you? You need to come to Jesus, young lady.” Her hands were on her waist. She had that mother look that was anger. More than that, it was frustration.

Winnie reached around Pooch’s ear and scratched it gently.

“If you didn’t do it, who did?”

Winnie had an answer, but she wasn’t sure her mother would believe her. She gathered up her courage and said, “It’s a ghost.”

“A ghost? C’mon, Winnifred Ambrosia Mason. What are you talking about?”

“Mommy, it’s a ghost,” Winnie insisted as Pooch licked her ear.

Sandy wheeled around and went off into the kitchen. She poured a cup of coffee. Then she sat down at the kitchen table.

Winnie was quiet. That wasn’t good news.

Sandy yelled into the other room, “Go to your room before I kill you. If you don’t, I swear I will.”

She heard Winnie and Pooch head into her room.

Sandy drank her cup of coffee, then another, then another. Finally, she picked up the phone. “Bess, can you come over? Please.”

Bess was Sandy’s sister. She knew how to put the fear of God in a child. She had done it with her own three.

Fifteen minutes and Bess came through the front door. “Anybody home?” she called.

“I’m in here,” Sandy yelled back.

Bess walked past Sandy and went into the small cubicle that was the kitchen. “You drank all the coffee.”

Sandy was in no mood for Bess’ sass. No mood at all. “If I had a bottle of scotch, I would drink that too.”

Bess brought Sandy a new cup of coffee. “Here. Drink this.”

“No wonder Mom drank.”

Bess sat down across from her sister. “Okay, what has Winnie done now?”

“She says it’s a ghost.”

“A ghost?” Bess laughed. “That’s a new one. My kids never said anything about a ghost. Where did she get that idea?”

Sandy shook her head. “God only knows.” She sipped her coffee.

“You think she’s right.”

“Honest to God, no.”

“She’s a good kid.” Bess said, then took another drink from the cup. “Mostly.”

“It’s the mostly part I’m worried about.”

“So what are we going to do?”

“We?” Sandy said, then went silent.

Her sister reached over and squeezed her hand.

Sandy squeezed back. “One thing is for sure. I am not giving her to her father.”

“You want me to take her with me? Keep her for a couple of weeks.”

“No. This is something I have to do.”

Bess went home and Sandy continued to sit at the table. Finally, she made a decision. She got up and walked to Winnie’s room. The room was straightened and everything was in its place. Winnie was on the floor. Pooch lay across her lap. She went to get up.

“Stay where you are,” Sandy said softly, then took a seat on the floor beside Winnie. She ran her fingers through Winnie’s hair. “Look. If you say it was a ghost, it was a ghost. As long as I have no evidence, I am going to think you’re telling the truth. Okay?”

“Yes, Mommy,” Winnie said, leaning her head against her mother.

“Unfortunately you don’t have a sister to blame things on the way I did.” Then she leaned over and kissed her daughter on the head.

Near 500 words: Yin and Yang

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Chet looked into Tessa’s eyes. He saw the city reflected in her clear blue eyes. Her smile filled him with joy.

Tessa looked into Chet’s eyes. She saw the countryside. His smile filled her with joy.

Tessa wore city. Chet was clothed in country. Tessa spoke city. Chet spoke countryese. Chet was progressive. Tessa a conservative. Chet was into cats. Tessa had a German shepherd. It wasn’t an argument they had. It was a conversation.

It had been a blind date when they met. They had resisted. They had had blind dates before. Neither was up for another one. But their best friends insisted. They saw something of the other in each one. And they felt that Tessa and Chet would  make a great pair.

They met on neutral territory. A crowded restaurant. Immediately they liked each other. Though they had nothing in common, they had everything in common. They both were gentle, kind souls. They were both creative. Though Chet was an optimist, Tessa was a pessimist. They balanced each other out, and their glass as a couple always held a half glass of wine.