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"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." – Maya Angelou

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.)


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