the word dream discovered

I don’t know what a man is to say when his father has died. One can speak of greatness or failure. One can feel out the edges of loss and grief in words. One can endeavor to record a semblance of the man and his spirit.

Instead I’ll tell a story. This story’s a lot like my life and the things in it, but it’s a story because as always things are all askew and I can’t say this is a fact or that’s a lie. There’s a part of me waking up to some kind of faith, an assurance like only kids can feel when they come home through their yard to see embers fly out the chimney and up into the nearly dark night, then inside with the smell of family, and safe.

My father had a way of breaking news to us, like with my mom in the hospital again and again. I remember his style of delivery as clear as if he were in this room and telling it straight to me today. He’d start with a heavy silence, with a look like he were gathering the exact right words. He’d then speak in measured tones, and waste nothing.

The more usual thing would be stern reprimands for playing with the syrup bottle or some other minor annoyance. He’d also get ego kicks from being daddy, the big deal. But when delivering news that would affect us greatly, my father had a tone of voice unequalled in its strength of love. He was a man who bore his burdens so the rest could live a lighter load, but when it came time to share them, my father’s voice said all at once: “I am with you”, “this is real”, and “we’ll survive.”

How many nights like tonight did my father sit through, wrestling with his thoughts to make some kind of sense? How many troubles did he stomach to get that leather-raw tone in his news-breaking voice, all smooth with a realness that braced you and held you. He was our strength.

Throughout my life I’d always call to hear that voice when life was low, like some kind of distilled resolve that held me steady. You see, if you didn’t listen close enough you’d just think he was gruff and mostly mean. But how he spoke when you needed him most…

Defined us.

(June 1997)


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