A man called Father

A song of bereavement for the month of June

Hush my dear brother,

did you not hear,

the man we called Father has passed?

At first disbelief; replaced by relief, later by grief—o why should we bother?

Yet, no more to fear:

his endless critique, relentless rebuke—deep shuddering sigh—no longer aghast

Hush my dear sister,

did you not know?

Son of a banker, spent all his first years, in bumbling town Brandfort—

where his father insisted on Sir, if not Mister.

Preeminent patriarch—austere as can be—no wonder it would show

as Father grew up—like father like son—alas to exhort?

 

Three weeks to the day

May thirtieth, the year of our Lord, two-thousand-and-seventeen:

a single call, a single text: he is no more.

One month shy of ninety-two they say

Pray tell, how best portray, remember, honor, perchance forget—an insight glean

A life lived, however contentious—of good and of bad—we do keep score

 

Accounting, the balancing of books, his solid stepping-stone

Soon followed by seven solemn years of theocratic taught theology—

during which, one single brief encounter—a visiting American preacher,

teacher no less, prophet profess—America’s doomed—destruction: bemoan

and since that day and sixty years, became Father’s personalized philosophy:

the end is near—repent, recoil—of this, his speech, always a feature

 

A driven man

who took as his sole mission, the African interior—Christianize the local(s)

learn the Chichewa tongue, build churches, coated white, steeples high

the end is nigh—repent, recoil—for eternity was needed: a single master plan.

Five children he sired, fatherhood was optional—he never was a yokel

“The work of the Lord” for him, never would include his family—do pray, do sigh

 

Strong, unshakeable—his clearest conviction

Of America’s undoing, and, along with it, the entire civilized world

When asked to dig a long drop in the bush, three by three by six;

sufficed, he claimed, three by three by three—and this his sole prediction:

no need for more, the end’s upon us sooner, absolutely certain—eternity unfurled.

Perchance a valid question—illusion, certitude, or one of many tricks?

 

Now that he’s gone, beloved expressions, do come to mind:

“Life is no joke,” his first and his favorite.

“You’d better change your attitude,”

and “Smile a bit”—although, with him, humor oft’ was hard to find,

“That is not important,” yet another phrase, example of his wit

And then, to top them all, “You haven’t got a clue”—his raw and honest platitude

 

To his grandchildren

a wholly different man,

with affection, they’d call him our Candy Gramps, “ons lekkergoed Oupa.”

Visiting, he’d leave behind, sweet things to chew on, also toffees made by Wilson,

five-liter ice cream, Fanta, and Coke—always and always, an excellent plan.

No TV on Sundays or playing outside, they’d huff and they’d puff; sing Tra-la-la-la

 

The funeral was Monday

at the hour of ten

dressed now in a starched white shirt, a tie, black shoes, his only suit—

dry cleaned—the one he has not had a chance to give away.

Of his entire life a certain truth remained, conviction always stem

No money did he keep, possessions he would mock, minimalism, the only, only route

 

Hush my dear brothers,

did you not hear,

the man we called Father has passed?

How do we pen the lifetime he lived—the grit, the good, the damage, the smother?

So easy to choke in our hurt, refuse him a tear

Forgive him we must—a choice—lest bound we will stay, forever downcast

 

Hush my dear sisters,

did you not know?

Amidst our great sadness:

all that was wasted—a lifetime of chances. Now that it’s over—us, stalwart resisters

Perchance to hope, perchance to live, without fear—do show

Reach out and touch: a hand, a heart; to mend—sorrow to gladness.

 

 

(Isn’t it astounding how suddenly our lives can change, in spite of all the clever plans we make? It is never an easy matter to lay one’s parent to rest. Father went first. Then, ten days later, Mother followed. A poem, in tribute to my mother, will follow next week. Thank you for reading.)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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20 thoughts on “A man called Father

  1. sjoe.
    aan die einde van die dag wonder mens hoe min liefde en warmte het daardie aantreklik vulnerable gesiggie in sy eie lewe gesmaak …

    my hart bloei vir jou eie seer pappa … want op jou einde was jy ‘bloot produk van’

    en tog
    my hart bloei vir die wonde wat jy geskep het
    rou wonde wat nog moet heel
    wonde wat dalk verwond onopgebind sal bly
    bloeiende
    met nog lewensverliese

    vergifnis is daar herhaaldelik, vootgande

    vergeefs?

    • Florence,
      Wonde neem tyd en aandag en insig om te heel.
      Dit is essensieel dat ons wonde toelaat om in littekens te verander.
      Mag ons die mooi ook raaksien.
      May we never miss the beauty that was there all along (though hidden.)
      Danie

  2. ook is my hartseer nog rou

    dalk, medie groter wordende prentjie van eendag

    sien ons ook heel

    en kan ons met vreugde terugblik

  3. So sorry to hear about your parent’s passing. It is so difficult to loose one but not both within such a short time. My thoughts & prayers are with you and your family. Looking forward to your next blog re your mother.

  4. So sorry to hear of your loss. Losing a parent, beloved or aggrevating hits you, hits you badly, the more so the older we get somehow. Strength which you have displayed will be required. It will take time, time for memories, time for the memories we chose to forget, and time to relish in others memories. Find photos and relive some.

    • AK,
      You’re right—it’s a kaleidoscope of memories we are left with.
      Our challenge is, what will we do with it?
      One thing is certain though, bitterness must not be allowed into the picture.
      Thank you for your comments!
      Danie

    • Pat,
      It’s hard(er) when the wounds are fresh.
      I’m praying for healing among those who are left behind.
      Take care,
      Danie

  5. Very poignant, had to read twice … our condolences Danie, penning these poems surely helps to ease the pain.

    • Linda,
      Thank you.
      My attempt at painting a more than a black-and-white picture of my dad. (We are all complex beings.)
      Danie.

  6. My dearest Danie – Accept my heartfelt condolences ….. We knew your parents. They would often come to visit us and spend the day. My husband would listen attentively to all he had to say. When they left he would give your dad a question or two to contemplate. I think your mother enjoyed the visits too. She could speak her mind freely and knew I would not gainsay her. Happily they would leave in the late afternoon. He never came to us without bring something nice to eat. You and your family is, like always close to my heart.

    • Ma Bettie,
      That’s true—he was a unique man.
      And Mom, the stalwart, and loyal companion.
      Thank you for sharing those memories!
      Danie

  7. Danie’s dirge to his father is poignantly touching. It is a farewell to a father who might have appeared unloving to young ones because of his apparent aloofness. This reader pays homage to the father who was a role model to many. I salute Danie for so aptly expressing his sorrow for “lost chances”. How fortunate that the lament does not dwell only on “damage” and “smother”, but promises “hope without fear.” May you be comforted because all of you are special and amid the deep sadness, there will be good memories of a loving mother and a special father.

  8. I loved this poem. Sincere, lovely, and profound. I even noticed a few traces of the diversity reflected in writing we have been talking about in our comments.

    • John,
      I believe this poem and the one about my mom were two of the most difficult pieces I have ever written.
      It was hard. He was a hard man. And yet, there was also much beauty. We often forget (and forgot) about the beauty.
      Thank you for the kind words.
      Best,
      Danie