Yesterday was Dad’s 79th birthday. Of course it was also three and a half months since he died. Let’s just say I had lots of feelings but they all boiled down to this–I miss him.
It’s been raining a lot in Western North Carolina. Dad liked the rain and he taught me to like it, too. When I was small, we’d sit in a rocking chair listening to it drum on the roof. I felt perfectly safe then. Perfectly.
Dad also liked to get out in the rain. There’s not much farming you can do in a downpour but you CAN clean ditches. He once came home from doing just that with a sodden baby opossum. They’re cuter when they’re small. I wish I could tell you he grew to be an ugly, old opossum but in truth he wasn’t with us long.
At any rate, here’s a poem I wrote about my father. Because remembering helps.
When it rained and the fields
could not be worked, my father
would take a shovel and walk
the muddy byways.
He watched the ditches
for clumps of leaves—little dams
forcing the flood across
the rutted road and one by one
released pent-up eddies of dirt
and debris. Maybe it was the need
to be doing, to be busy even as
nature went about the business
of watering the farm. Or maybe
it was the peace of walking
through a world narrowed down,
where the rain limned
each leaf and twig and stone,
where he could see his problems
in a glut of filth pried loose,
giving way, washing free
down the side of a mountain.