My dad died last week. For the past year & a half, he'd been severely incapacitated due to a major stroke.
Sadly, we didn't have a good relationship. I wouldn't liken it to Plath's "Daddy," or, for that matter, Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays" either. Nor was it like Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz," although Dad's alcoholism has blurred & tainted most of my memories of him.
I allude to this in "The Summer Before Last Summer" (which appears in both Nearing Narcoma & Manthology: Poems of the Male Experience). I've reprinted the poem below as if an elegy:
The Summer Before Last Summer
Taking the fishing trip I never had as a boy,
I’m standing on the boat’s port side because,
well, I like standing, the handle of my rod
propped against my gut. I’m a man.
It’s what men do. When I feel my line go taut,
I begin to reel it in. I’m not very good at this,
& it’s a struggle. Nothing like Santiago’s
great fish, I’ll confess, but there’s definitely
something on the other end. Maybe a hubcap,
maybe a fish. Like a pediatrician,
I have little patience, which
I expect to snap, that is, if my hands don't cramp.
I draw the line in, take up the slack
until, with just a gentle jerk, I’m left
holding a pole, limp & weightless.
My arms can’t describe my loss. I stop, eyes fixed
on white fins cutting across the surface.
I think sharks, but upon closer inspection,
I see it’s my old man, young again behind
the wheel of his ’60 Plymouth, off on a binge,
driving home the long way, the wrong way.