June 19, 2021

The Gentle, Sweet Man

 Like on the day before Mother's Day, I took a Zoom writing workshop with Laura Lentz.  This one encouraged us to write About Your Father.  This is what came from this workshop today.

I lived in the shadow of my mother and that long shadow obscured my father and I really never saw him or knew him. So now I write a love letter to him.



Dearest Willy Walt, Poppy,

Sweet artist never realized,

Handsome

Athletic (you tried to teach this uncoordinated girl tennis)

Troubled

Resurrected

 

I cherish the few stories you told me about your life:

About leaving your art to become a bill collector during the depression and learning the hard way to never ask a debtor “where is your dog?”

Singing war songs around the barbeque as if you had been there, but Washington was far from the front.

The change in you that you told me about when you, the staunch Republican, was assigned to the most hated Democratic of men only to learn respect for the man in the wheelchair who expressed concern for you.

That’s all I knew of your past.

 

But even in my ignorance about you, you kept from me all your troubles

Your disappointment

Your disagreements with Ruth

The loss of your two older sisters to a diphtheria outbreak only two months before you were born and the sadness of the house for years in your childhood

The loss of your beloved kid brother to TB only months after he was best man at your wedding

I never knew until I began just now to research your life.

 

I’m sorry I only saw you as someone to fix, to cure of your alcoholism

 

I’m sorry a nurse had to show me how you longed for your art studied so passionately in your youth in the haunts of Cooper Union and the Art Student’s league (another thing I did not know) and help me bring you back to it.

 

I’m sorry I never acknowledged your true nature:

Shy

So sweet

So gentle

So kind

So lost

An artist never realized

 

That brain tumor that took you from me, that was what made me truly see you.

I wish I could tell you how much I loved you. I hope you will forgive me my sins of omission