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Picture of Dad

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I have been looking through some of the old photo albums my grandma has in her house. I don’t know a lot of people in the really old black and white pictures and it is interesting to try to figure out their personalities based on their expressions and posture and such.

Many of the people I do recognize. My grandma is there with a young version of my grandfather who passed away when I was in high school. Grandma’s brothers and sisters are there, too. And then there is my dad and his brother Henry and his deceased sister Kathy.

I find it particularly interesting to see younger pictures of my dad. It makes me realize that I know very little about him. Sure, I’ve heard stories about his childhood, but I look at the pictures and I wonder what dreams did this boy have? Perhaps I should ask him.

When I sift through the memories of my dad, something is there I can’t quite put my finger on. My mom was a much more dominant presence in the family. Still is. Thinking about it, it seems that my dad represents strength to me and solidarity. He has physical strength for sure, but I also think of him as the man who never cries. When you’re tough (or strong), you don’t cry, right? (I actually believed that for a really long time).

Anyway, seeing the pictures of my dad and thinking about our relationship over the years reminded me of a poem I wrote quite a while back. Thought I would share it.

Beach Trip
The waves seemed higher
when I was five
or six.

My sister and I
would go out as far
as our toes could touch
the shifting sand.

It was a family event –
the beach, the sandy towels,
Grandma’s old camper
with the bunk bed at the front
where I snuggled each night
in its dark, secure crevice.

Each morning we’d run out
to water with buckets
and yelps, and salty breath.

Mom would stretch out
in the open
to catch the sun.

On rare occasions,
my dad would venture
with us and we’d press
ourselves further into the deep.

The big waves would come,
rolling and pushing us under
and apart.

My dad’s strong hands
held our fragile wrists firmly,

and we bobbed in the vastness
of the ocean –

and unfearing.

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