for Clifford Abbott Dodd 1952-2012
and Kitty Tyler, his wife
The husband of an old friend passed away recently,
younger than I am now, which stuns me just a bit
and while I never met this bearded man
who played Santa and served his nation,
I think about what the world knows
about him from the words of his obituary
sent to me by his wife, my friend of 50 years.
And what do our lives boil down to when the kettle
is turned on high and we are rendered mute
by the ages that follow our brief visit to this planet.
For Cliff, the eyes of his neighbors will read
just under three hundred words that describe
his life, his loves and his family
word that speak to millions across the future world.
Many who have shared this air with Cliff
will never even have that many words, if any,
that prints their stamp upon the earth
in the language of their people to tell where
their feet took them across the variegated surface
of this mostly blue planet we call Earth,
a place from which a rare few will step away.
And in these lines we read, we are to fill
in the blanks and the pauses between the letters
with what we know of this life,
the birth and all the happiness of his parents,
and their struggle to keep a roof over his head,
food in his mouth and clothes on his body
during all the weather that played through his growing years.
So too, the first day of kindergarten and all the years
he learned and breathed the measures of life
into his youthful mind, dreaming what and wheres
he would make a mark and do the bidding
of his soul, to stand with all the others
who swirl around him as he walks each day.
What of his service and his generosity
and all the good he did in the smallest moments
when he forgot himself and pushed another
forward into a better world with a kind word
or the effort of his life with a gift of money:
we are the benefactors of the time he learned
to be human after all the growing days
If we are to read between these lines
that so many will know today;
his mother's sleepless night when teeth
became her nemesis, when his tears
and screams kept the night awake,
when she imagined horns growing
from his little head to haunt her rocking body.
What of forgotten playground fights
from sass of youthful swagger and fist
that started with a piece of candy
or the first love shared by two young boys
who each felt it necessary to defend
their love from the other's advancing
ardor that surely could not stand the test of time
We know all this and imagine more
that is common to every man and woman,
where through this path of words
must come an end to what is told: a place
where we exchange our thoughts
with those he loved through all the years
where tears become a knowing smile.
So to Cliff we say so long
and I thank him from afar
for his care and love for my friend
returned to me through wires and glass
qwerty keyboards and glowing screens:
its up to us to support her now
our Kitty of new memories and ready smile.
Here now is the end of what I write today
about these moments we all must face
when wonder begins to stir my 60 years
of what will be written for others to read
and if I shall measure up to Cliff's three hundred
a man I never met who sold books
and spoke to children through their sugar plum dreams.
Copyright © 2012 by Barry G. Wick
with permission for his immediate family
to reproduce as they see fit.