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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

From Father to Son

From Father to Son

He was born in a small 
South Dakota town 
in the east of the state
It was late in November
He would die on the same date
Far away 
in California

He returns to me
In dreams where I hear
His voice and see his face
An only child
His mother American Norwegian
His father American German

I see him again on rubber boats
A fishing pole in hand
Sitting at the breakfast nook
With a pencil in his fingers
Talking to a circle of professionals
Speaking to graduates
Sitting in his office 
Stumbling drunk in our home
When drinking with his friend
Carrying a deer rifle or shotgun
Explaining his trophies
Roaring in laughter

In our last phone call
Where he speaks to me alone
His cancer has odd names
While eating him alive
Faster and faster it grows
Inside of him 
Each word is chosen
With our histories entwined
In the silence of daily life
He tells me I'm his son
I blubber at that line
As I know it settles
An argument with my mother
Of years long before
When he questioned my paternity 
that hit my mother as hard as any fist
He probably never used
Her words to me on that
Made me wonder why I felt
A washout between father and son

When I'm suddenly transported
To a place on a ranch near the Badlands
Where he plants me
With my brother's rifle
Looking up a small wash
To silence me as he walks
Farther ahead to put himself
Unseen by me
From where I hear his gun
Down a muley

You're my son he says
It's an apology to my mother
And to me about our separations
That often appeared
As I've seen him throughout
Our years as he walked away
On so many occasions
From an interest in my life

Now so many years away
From that phone call
I understand the canyon
Between my son and me
Where I have no rifle
Only words to slay
Only words to say
I'm sorry I learned
The wrong lessons of parenthood
Passed from generations
To me

Barry G. Wick

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