A Father’s Day Poem

STP baseballFather’s Day is one of those days that got dropped from my personal calendar when my father died almost ten years ago.  It’s not that I don’t want to honor fathers in general, and I encourage my children to find ways to celebrate their father.  But it lost some resonance for me when I became fatherless.

It’s not exactly that Father’s Day pierces my heart when it rolls around every year.  It was never a big celebration in our family when I was growing up, and for that matter neither was mother’s day.  I miss my father much more on his birthday, which he enjoyed with the glee of a little boy, or on his yahrzeit, always a day of sadness and what-ifs.  And I miss him on important family occasions where his absence is especially felt, like my kids’ bat and bar mitzvahs, college acceptances, high school graduations, and the like, where he is glaringly absent in the family photos.

But still, when Father’s Day rolls around there is a feeling of sadness, and emptiness.  So in honor of Father’s Day, and in memory of my father, here’s a poem about him that I wrote a few years back.

To My Father, 1934-2003

The World Series

 

While machines flashed red numerals

hope, despair, hope

your long graceful fingers

reached up from your ICU-induced sleep state

to trace figures in airborne columns of debits and credits.

 

Yiddish was your first language

but numbers were your native tongue.

Balance sheets spoke to you of nuance,

challenges mastered and tamed,

the stories and dramas of the universe.

 

Numbers talked,

and you answered.

You wrote your life story in their epic language

of plusses and minuses.

 

Ebbetts Field was your princely realm,

a boyhood kingdom in which

the beauty and order of stats

kept the chaos away.

 

“Peppy” they called you in high school

because Pepsi’s kept you sharp.

The reliable math of poker and

the clean geometry of pool sharking

provided cool cash

stored always in serial number order.

 

Becoming an accountant

provided an arithmetic solution

to the sum of your first-generation yearnings.

Controlling the figures in ledgers and spreadsheets

supplied the way to amount

to a man of substance.

 

You would have loved tonight’s game

a four-of-four sweep for my son’s team.

As we watched, his eyes on the screen and my eyes on him,

he held forth in that language of

stats and averages, innings and outs,

that I haven’t heard since your numbers went still.

 

Copyright © Hara E. Person

July 14, 2008

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Leave a Comment

Filed under Judaism, Poetry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>