July 1st Ten Minutes of Life – Mad Dad

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July 1, 2016

I overhear my father speaking to my brother on the phone. He laughs as he reports that each time he sees a doctor, security is called. He thinks it’s funny. To me, it’s a reminder of the anger gene I inherited—which is not funny. Overcoming this trait—to anger easily and frequently—comprises my life work. And as I get older, my life’s work becomes more challenging.

My father’s doctors do not need security. My father’s doctors need to know that anger gets the best of him every so often, and he says foolish things, downright scary, violent words accompanied by mad gesticulations and facial expressions. Those who don’t know him well might fear. His last outburst was directed at the receptionist manning his doctor’s phones. She bore the brunt of his crazed-from-pain-and-impatience anger and threats spewed in demonic tones, I’m sure. I was not there.

But when the four police officers on my lawn caught my attention from inside the house, I found that they were cautious, though easily assuaged of their suspicions, that my father, who sat in front of them in a lawn chair in our front yard (detained), was relatively harmless. Neither of us owns a gun, after all.

My father had just ten minutes before told me that he lost patience and insinuated to the receptionist some veiled threat—this within days of the Orlando nightclub shooting. The doctor’s office receptionist and entire staff reacted seriously. When I heard it, I did not. I had heard these idle threats before and his relating them to me as if he had said them. Usually he admits that he felt like threatening out loud but did not. This time he admitted he said it, said something menacing.

No, I cannot say I was entirely surprised when I saw the cops in front of the house. Yes, he is a slouching, skinny 6 foot 3, 82 year old man, who looks older these days due to back pain, cancer surgery and infection recovery. And he rambles incoherently at times, particularly under duress, but he knows how to smooth things over too. The cops detected my exasperation and his beaten down pride, maybe even shame. Certainly embarrassment. So they let him go with a warning that next time…

A week later, his chuckling over the security guard called to his last doctor’s appointment reminds me of the cover up we end up having to do after we lose our cool—he and I both—to others and ourselves.

 

image: maddad/blogspot

Dance, Abe.


Hey there, 6 foot 2,

You’re the legend I 

Never really knew,

Just tales and arms

That wrapped me up

In dreams disarmed.

At least I think so,

Childhood being all

Those decades ago.

No matter still, as

Memory lays bare

A wild man’s stare

And disheveled hair

From too much work,

Sleepless nightmare,

Slaving for the jerk

Who paid pennies

For our family of 7

And zero amenities

Like air, health, ice

Or places to sit and

Eat, but for the mice

And rats and broken

Windows in summer

Through winter then

All over again you

Worked and worked

Like honey bees do

Except for the sweet,

Endless years toiling

Making their mark on

Sharp minds unfolding

Like cards in a deck

The ones spread before

Your outstretched neck

As you glance at a play

Grimace in your mouth

And hunch in your sway.

Time, cards, pills, and

Withering you rue it

All, taking for granted

Though you may intuit

That all you worked

For in shaving off days

Return in unseen perqs

Of watching the world

Change as you leave it

For survivors to unfurl

And laugh at the effort

Knowing it’s fruitless.

I watch you watching

Me with that wry smile

Sneering, laugh, a poke

A jab, a joke just to rile

Me, anyone who’ll hear

And play the game of

Conversations unclear,

Skills you never master

Unbothered to learn its

Nuanced turns faster.

But here you are 82

And not worse for 

The wear as you do

Your days like song

On repeat every hour

Seeking to belong

Longing for your arm

Missed as she’s gone

And none to replace 

The world you built

Sweat leaving no trace

Of life fretted in years.

Though sad and sagged,

You have plenty of life

To give, receive, begin

Again if you so wish,

Children, grandchildren

Happy that you exist 

As am I who love you

With much heart, laughs

anger and admiration too.

Happy Day, Father, to you, 

Dance the potato chip dip

Crazy, ape-shit, Abie-poo. 

 

 

Cradle to Grave


One more I honor and pray will not be the last,

This poem, your day, awakenings to more days

Filled with complaints, facts, lies, jokes and sighs

Those last with mortal grimace and existential pain–

And celebrations.

No one fills your place, not before or after,

None who sits just where you do in my house,

Or my car, no one quite like you who inherited and grew

status, class, gender, race, trait, stance and ethnicity.

You made me.

One day you will unmake me just like the sun and earth,

My fiery Death whose smoke will awaken the ravens

Loosen charred Regret and Steam, neither life companions

On my walk, my rise and fall, blossom and decay, my stain

After you.
 

Who’s that Knocking at my Door?

 

 

A shadow slumps in the doorway, a darkness hollowed by blazing corners

where the light exhales, squeezing past the hulking figure that is my father.

“What are we having for breakfast?” Code for make me something to eat.

Desires, requests, pleas, all are puzzles to a man who knows no direct say.

“Sure, go ahead and eat without me. You don’t give a shit about me anyway.”

Read: I want to be loved, appreciated and acknowledged as a human being.

He knows no direct. His sentences scrape the underside of a mirror, inverted.

An uneducated master of language manipulates impulses, inherited relations

to move, respond, act, resist and surrender–a force of father-thinned twining.

 
Mother instilled the love of words in those of us who shone in penning letters.

She idled hours in solving crosswords, leafing magazines, and correcting him.

“‘Don’t got’ is a double negative and makes you sound like an illiterate moron.”

Her words sliding by as if unspoken, he ignored her, she, his virtual dictionary,

until Scrabble time, where strategy schooled the unwary wordsmith defensed.

A board game master, card player extraordinaire and pathological liar, he waits.

Convinced long ago she filled me with philologist love, I glance upon his notion;

my words form around the blankness in the doorway, the gamesman stares me

while the muse I wrestled to the ground, a slutty run-around, scampers past him.

 
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