Dad, Leave-taking 1993

The note on my rack
from the Division Leading Chief
read “See me ASAP. Chief P.”
I’d been out, away from the ship
for fresh air and distance.
For once, concern as he told me
that an American Red Cross message
had come in with notification
that you were in the hospital.

I flew from San Diego
to Honolulu in a fog.
In the Intensive Care Unit room
all the tubes piercing you pierced me,
all the machines and electronics stunned me.
Your labored breaths left me gasping.
Dad, I’m so sorry I couldn’t keep silent.
I’ll never regret being there.
I’ll regret forever my insistence
on speaking when you wanted silence.
I remember how you called me
“an idiot” on your deathbed
(to shut me up?)  –  it’s OK –
you were right, again.

I remember how I didn’t tell you
“I love you” nearly enough times
those last two days. I remember
when you were moved to the top floor,
the “terminal ward” and how my sisters
waited for word in their hotel room
near the airport. Your breathing
quieted and faded until it stopped.
The pain you had in breathing
all those years was finally over.

Our family friend Stuart and I ate
and talked deep into the night,
telling favorite stories of you
and celebrating your life.

I remember my hotel room
newly cheerless and bleak.
Waikiki is no tourist
destination for death.

I woke up drained,
raw from grief,
forever changed.

I will remember you until I die.
Thank you for everything –
I am so grateful.
I miss you Dad. I love you.

Andrew Shattuck McBride
April 20, 2012

About Andrew Shattuck McBride

I am a writer, editor, writing coach, and consultant. I work in a variety of genres, including poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. I also have a couple of novels simmering on back burners. THANK YOU to Nan Macy of Village Books for taking this photo (June 2011).
This entry was posted in Andrew Shattuck McBride Writer, Likeke R. McBride, NaPoWriMo ~ 2012, Samples, Transformation. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Dad, Leave-taking 1993

  1. I used Robert Lee Brewer’s “Poetic Asides” prompt for Day 19, “write a life event poem.”

  2. Andy, this is so wrenching and raw. The line “all the tubes piercing you pierced me” is exactly that–piercing.

  3. Jennifer, thank you very much. Amazing how we conjure something like this, from nearly 20 years ago. I think that line you noted is one of the strongest in the poem.

    I am beginning to understand that a weakness I work from is wanting to explain everything in my poems and other writing. I must begin trusting my readers.

    Thank you again – for everything! Sincerely, Andy

    • That’s so interesting, isn’t it–the impulse to *explain* in a poem? I’m always tempted to do that, just to make sure I’m true to the experience and making myself understood. But it’s always the images and metaphors that do the best heavy lifting of the freight of meaning, and in the fewest words. So my revising process usually involves LOTS of cutting.

  4. Yes, definitely. Thank you Jennifer!

    I’m beginning to understand how crucial it is becoming for me to do LOTS of cutting in each of my poems, too!

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