My childhood household
wasn’t a happy place or safe space
Elder dreams, shattered,
as spectral company,
ev’ry nook and cranny.
And the fragmented hopes of manifold orisons,
aimed at, shouted aloft
back to earth, crashing,
as littering shards,
covered the floor…
Thus the test, nay, the impossibility ‘twas to tread without being cut
by his circadian critique;
he who yearned to relive,
to revive his life through me.
I was not…never mine own;
not one to be nurtured to become his self
(whoe’er that was or could be or would be),
but only his should-be-servant to his Svengali.
after a long time,
after an o’er-years long, hard time
of inward journey and outward discovery,
by God’s grace,
I made peace with the price
of the sacrifice
I was made to make;
the sacrifice I was.
And, by God’s grace,
I made peace with his history
of denial, familial and societal.
From the seed of that awareness
came the fruit of forgiveness.
Now, in mine aging,
the lines of time etching once smooth flesh,
when I look at my reflection,
I see, day by day, more and more his face
and, no longer turning away,
6 thoughts on “F’nally Home”
Oh, Paul. This poem touches my heart so. I hear it – the pain and loneliness of a child’s being expected to live in order to fill a hole in someone else’s life, in someone else’s soul. That’s a huge, tough mandate to carry, tougher to recover from, rescuing the divine gift of yourself from grim obligation and duty that is impossible to carry out. Only the intercession of grace can offer respite and healing, but I know something of the grace that touched and stayed with you. I saw it in your smiling eyes when I met you, and I heard it in your laughter and in your beautiful way of speaking. I read it in your sermons and in your poetry. I recognize it in the warmth between you and Pontheolla. That wan smile you speak of is worth everything, for it betokens not only the hurt you carry, but what you have gained by the struggles you have experienced to understand your father and his life and the world that inflicted the pain he felt and passed on to you, however unwittingly it may have been. You, as Faulkner said once, have not only endured, but you have prevailed. You took pain and crafted something from it – a caring heart, a probing mind, a faithful serving of justice and mercy, a warm voice offered to the world – wisdom, but most of all, love – of God’s creation and of God’s children, who need it so much.
Thank you, dear friend, for not holding back even the hard parts, for sharing what has made you the man you are.
With much love,
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Thank you, Karen, for reading me – in both the sense of perusing the written words and in understanding who I am and what I intended to express. “That wan smile you speak of is worth everything, for it betokens not only the hurt you carry, but what you have gained by the struggles you have experienced to understand your father and his life and the world that inflicted the pain he felt and passed on to you…”
Yes, amen. The hurt, yea, truly, is not…cannot be forgotten, but it can be…and, for me, in this severest of instances of my life, hath been overcome. In understanding my father, his pain and his motivation, I was and am able to see that he meant well…very well. His methodology caused more harm, I believe, than he would have desired. Yet, again, I believe, that he meant well.
I thank you, too, and always for your encouragement in light of what you see in me – truly, my brighter lights, for I have shadowy places in which, sometimes, as sage angels, I fear to tread. Yet, here, too, I have come to accept those parts of me, for they, in their part, help to constitute the whole person I have become and continue, I pray to become.
Always, my dear sister, my love,
Splendid, reflective writing. Thank you for this.
This is hauntingly beautiful Paul. Thanks for sharing it. Could be time for another session of the Forgiveness Class.
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Yes, I think this year, at some point, you and I need revisit our retreat plans. And, yes, this poem/reflection most definitely fits the theme of forgiveness. Love
One other thought, Loretta… As I read and reread this poem, I am amazed that each time I recall one or more incidents or encounters with my father that hadn’t occurred to me when I first wrote. I am more greatly amazed that my recollection of these painful episodes has not thrown me back on my hurt and anger, which, for me, is a sign of truest healing in not revisited that pit of despair of blaming my father and blaming myself (truly, neither – my father or the situations – being anything I could have controlled). I’m free and it – I! – feel grand! Love