Putting our Heads Together

Putting our Heads Together
I don't think he sees me

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


I don’t know what
struck him,
but he stopped
and turned to me.
“Don’t let the bastards get you.”
Soft, serious words.
“What?” Not understanding.
“Don’t let the bastards get you.”
Each word solid, firm.
“What bastards, Dad?”
“You know…the bastards!”
The end, final, frustrated.
Taking his hand, sinewed
from years of sailing,
and veiny with age,
noting how dark his
skin was against mine.
I think,
he will always be more
Arab than I, always
tied to a heritage I
know little of.

We resume our endless loops
through the Alzheimer’s unit.
Returning to song,
old habit for our voices.
Songs he sung to his children,
and I in turn to mine.
Gilbert and Sullivan
come to Greenville –
one afternoon only.
Our songs neither soft nor subtle;
unaware of those listening.
Lost in our own little world.
One little world
of many there.
We sing together of
pirates and orphans,
modern major generals and nocturnal stealth.
One song following another as
one foot follows the other.

Walking had been Dad’s
way of late – so Mom said.
More compulsion than exercise,
some unknown impetus
that had made him thin
since the last time I saw him.
So on this visit home,
I walked with Dad
to be by his side,
to know this incarnation
of his ever devolving self.
I sang with him
how I wished I had
sung with him
when he was
strong and whole,
and adulthood was my
aspiration and not avocation.
That walk and those songs
for me were acts of
love and regret.
My hand clinging to his,
not wanting to lose
what was left.
Knowing I already had.

It would be the last time
intimacy could be
shared between us.
When next I sang to
Dad, it would be softly,
at his death bed,
when he was twisted
by Alzheimers,
and feverish to be shed of it.
So I took with me
from our walk and song
the only thing I could -
his final vague and personal
message to me.
And in all the years between,
I have honored my father’s
wishes as a son should.
I have kept my
weather eye out, and
the bastards have yet
to get me, Dad.