For my Father
Dutifully I dial the number and ask for him.
He answers and
brick by brick we build a conversation.
Progressively the pauses
become more frequent
Finally we replace our receivers,
each regretting not having said
what he had no words to say.
Somehow I love him
yet cannot reach him.
8 June 1979
Leaving home was hard for me. It was harder for my father. If I was no longer under his roof I was no longer under his control. He would have to trust that he’d done a good job.
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Mostly he called me. And it was him. My mum never called and I never called her. It was always Dad. And if Mum answered the phone it wouldn’t be long before I’d ask for him because if I was calling it was to talk to him. That was the way it was in our house. Dad was the head. I’d love to say Mum was the heart. But heart can also mean centre. And Dad was that too.
He never read this poem. It’s a shame because this is probably the last time and the only public time I ever said I loved him. And I did. I was hardwired to. I didn’t always like him but I could never bring myself to hate him. I suppose he loved me. I can’t remember him ever telling me but he showed it and I never doubted it. He was always there for me even when I disappointed him in the worst ways possible.
‘For my Father’ first appeared in print in Sepia #11.