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Jun 2016
In childhood, your father’s name is DAD
Now grown, maybe with children of your own
But his name is still DAD
DAD, the teacher, the consoler, the advisor
Admonishes: “Drive safe” and “Save your Money”

Today he’s the bard
“This is like prison,” DAD laments while rolling his eyes
Tubes like thin plastic chains tether his deflated body
to blinking panels; paintings (factory printed ones)
pretend the hospital room is more than just a sterile space

Today, DAD’s eyes cast a faraway gaze, projecting
And I see the characters in his story
I see the 10 year old boy he describes, who snuck to stash a set
Of English Composition Texts in the boy’s bathroom
To escape Mrs. McElroy’s Fourth Grade course in Morose Poetry

I see the thin, sandy blond, 6 foot 2 high school rabblerouser
Who broke into the Vice Principal’s old Fiat
And buried Stilton cheese in the dashboard
All done on a sweltering May school day
The anecdote is punctuated with a smirk and a: “Who would do a thing like that?”

Stories of when he spotted a shy brunette at the dance and knew
Knew he was to marry her;
Stories of when his own DAD grasped his infant grandson’s dimpled hand
Before giving in to complications of a heart attack
The bard stops and exhales a sigh

He cringes in his crinkled skin
Sunken eyes squeeze close “I’m sorry”
the nausea interrupts his tale “These drugs are…”

“It’s okay. Take your time” I console, trying to comfort the pain in the room
Now I’m the consoler, taking on the job to ameliorate
Now this man, vulnerable in his suffering, is no longer DAD
Now mortal, a child, a brother, a lover, a patient
A man chained by the body’s sickness

He is distilled by chemo
reduced to a soul, who, through affliction,
As his children remember
He is as helpless in this life as we are.
My father in law died today and I love him more than I love my own father. I wrote thos while spending the day with him at the hospital. It was at that moment, he paused from being Dad to being a person. The subtle change was triggered by chemo and the possibility of death. I miss him very much. And I miss his stories.
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