I should have paid attention,
listened to life stories
But what 15 year-old would do that?
Fifteen was too young to know that
Life was hiding a dagger behind me.
So when life tapped my shoulder and
I looked that way
I never expected
the stabbing pain in my other side.
Daddy was dead and I was
a thousand miles away, melting in the
misery of a Chicago summer.
Swift landslide of memories.
A long road trip to California.
He teaches me the rules of the road.
His strong baritone voice sings along
to the lone country western radio station,
“The yellow rose of Texas is the only girl for me”.
Laughter and chicken-fried steak.
A lesson in scrambling eggs,
Wait, where did that happen?
Memories swirl into a vortex I need to separate.
They’re all I have
There should be more.
My father is dead.
With no clue, no notice, no chance to say goodbye.
Hell, no chance to say hello,
To ask those questions
To memorize his voice
To listen to his stories
To learn who he was.
No, it’s unthinkable. I won’t think it. I can’t.
But I can’t stop thinking about what never was.
Memories I never had evaporate like fog, leaving me chilled.
Somehow, days pass.
Somehow, a funeral happens.
Somehow, Mother and I sit
at the dining room table in silence
A thousand shared questions
Rise in the air along with her cigarette smoke
But the only one that matters is
The one that can’t be answered.
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Elder Writing Project is an outreach project of the Litquake Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit registered in the state of California.