Friday, April 6, 2012

Picturing Father

His photographs, the three I possess,
are faded and out of focus. But
I can tell he was as tall and skinny
as I was at his age. And he was so young.
People who knew him tell me I look like him.
Even today that gives me a warm feeling.
After all these years you'd think I would feel
differently about him, that my emotions toward
him would have matured along with my age.

He died when I was three years old
and I didn't get to know him as most kids
would their fathers. I don't remember
a thing about him, but I still miss him.
I have a sadness whenever I think of him.
I have heard the familiar voice that
isn't at all familiar, sensed him with me
at times when I open my mind to him,
when I think how he would have been
and what we might have talked about.

I have precious few of his belongings,
his pocket watch with the engraved elk
on the back, the yellow straight razor that
touched his face and would have lasted him
many more years had he been able to live.
The sadness comes when I try to assemble
a living person from the photos of him.
It never works of course. When I was young
I visited his grave in Grand Junction, Colorado,
where he died in a tuberculosis sanitarium.

The cemetery was a peaceful place,
with mourning doves cooing in the shade trees,
the grass seems emerald green and lush,
and the warm breeze carries a faint scent
of Russian olive blossoms. At least that's
how I would want it to be. But it's been years
since I stood above his gravestone.
Yes, life goes on, and when you don't have
memories of a special person, you invent them.
At least I do. I'm good at it. I'm in the process
of doing just that. And the older I become
the more I tend to cherish those memories.
Those extraordinary memories I've never had.