Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Watching Dad

I was luckier than many, but I didn't really know it at the time.

My Pop was always there, and seemed to consider being a dad as the most important mission in his life. He wasn't a big success by most measures from our secular/material culture – career, jobs, possessions, but if we had such a thing, he'd be in the Fatherhood Hall of Fame.

After his death in 1992, I wrote the following poem. My kids were young then, and I was a dad-in-training. Don't know that we ever get promoted from that position; however, the title Grandfather comes with a certain reward. Mine call me "Grampy." I enjoy having them come over for a spell; I enjoy sending them home.

This is a tribute to all dads who stayed in the home trenches, and to mine in particular –
Henry Lavelle Truman, November 5, 1909 – June 20, 1992. 

Watching Dad

Even now I spot Dad standing in that yard
hands on his hips, back swayed in that stance of his,
like all his boys stand,
his eyes bright in the crisp November noon
looking over the home he'd agreed to keep.

I see Pop teeth-clinching his pipe, raking
October fallen leaves,
big cotton gloves on large hard hands,
gentle hands that stroke a boy's head
and cup his face with affection.

I catch a glimpse of Dad under the hood
of his car tightening, cleaning,
checking belts and hoses making sure the oil
has the right depth in case we would ask
him to take us for a Sunday ride.

I look at Pop squatting in his seersucker pants,
summer brown arms bulging from his white undershirt
catching my Sunday fast balls, warning me away from curves,
pounding that dusty old catcher's mitt of his,
exhorting me to burn it in there.

I see Dad through the fog of anesthetic
standing over me, eyes circled in fear,
watching me breath, checking my cloudy eyes for life
whispering softly, repeatedly, imploringly,
dear God dear God dear God.

I watch Dad at the late night kitchen table
rubbing his knotted forehead
a sheaf of bills before him demanding he pay
for his son's glasses, the fixed refrigerator,
his daughter's wedding gown, doctor bills.

I see Pop talking, laughing, retelling tales
of his children, grandchildren growing up, of him and
his bride of 65 years growing along with us.
He sits on the back porch watching hummingbirds
flit around the feeder, burning time.

I sit with Dad after Momma died, him sunken there frail
on the eternal back porch, his eyes haunted, defeated.
He tells me all his papers are in the hutch,
asks me if I still have a key to his safe deposit box,
says he's sorry he's not worth so much now.

I hold my sleeping son's hand, tracing each finger in awe
touching there the past and future of a man;
in my daughter's eyes I view histories coursing
the fiber of her soul. And I watch my children grow, seeing
them press a path from the measure of my father's steps.


Follow these links to check out my books:
Legends of Tsalagee


Michael Ploof said...

Great poem, really enjoyed it. I never had a father like that, but it helped me to become that kind of father.

Phil Truman said...

Thanks, Michael. Glad you're committed to dadness. The world needs guys like you and my dad...and me:)

Sharon Cardwell said...

Wonderful poem! It describes your dad so well. He was definitely a kind, gentle soul who loved his family fiercely!