Yesterday, Janet, her visiting sister Diane and I brought their mother and father to Potosi, Wisconsin, for a day at the Potosi Brewing Company. Dianeʼs appearance was supposed to be a surprise (although to get her mom to buy into the idea of celebrating Fathersʼ Day yesterday, Janet had to let Betty know what was up; we hope she didnʼt spill the beans). We had lunch and sampled the various beers, toured the National Brewery Museum, and shopped at their little souvenir store (where a couple of years ago Janet bought me a very pretty maroon Potosi Brewery longsleeved shirt on our first memorable visit, when we initially hatched the plan to bring Bing there for Fathersʼ Day sometime). It was a great day and a fine weekend altogether.
I like getting the family stuff with or from Janetʼs family. My own is scattered somewhat, and brother Paul has been busy as a preacher on weekends for many years now, even before retiring and receiving his actual appointment with the United Methodist Church (which he has now, and Janet and I will have to visit to hear/see him preach some weekend). Margaret is ensconced a couple hours north, Davidʼs snugly busy all the way west in Iowa, while Stephen is imprisoned in northern Minnesota. And both of my folks are dead, my mother dying of cancer just months after Janet and I got married and my dad going just over a year later. I miss them more than simply on card holidays, particularly since I regret what a graceless and ungrateful (and oblivious) little lump of dung I was (and probably still am). On the other hand, being parentless is a stiff prod into actual adulthood. My father once told my mother, when my maternal grandmother had died, “The winds blow colder once your parents are gone.”
I wrote this poem back in 1979 — lifetimes ago for some of you — shortly after my birthday when I heard from my sister (I think) that my dad had suffered some kind of attack or seizure or episode while getting into his car after a meeting for his job, at that time Media Services Director for the Area Education Agency (number 16, if it matters). The incident didnʼt amount to much, and my father didnʼt die until four years later, on his way to work near Christmastime when, while he was trying to fix a frozen brake line under his Media Services van, the jack he had used to raise the vehicle skidded out on the icy roadside and the van crashed down on him. So the event that inspired the poem really didnʼt mean anything. Oddly, cold weather did get him, however, I guess.
About five years after his death, I finally acquiesced to Janetʼs wishes and started having a local garage change my oil for me, instead of jacking up the car and truck and scrambling around underneath, yanking and wrenching at the ill-placed oil filter(s)… After that Christmas of 1983, every time I got down to go under the engine, I felt a little scared, even with the truck not just up on a jack but on those sturdy red wheel ramps. On the other hand, not changing my/our own oil was surrendering yet another thing my father had given me.
But back to my poem…
I donʼt have much verse about my family at all, but I did write one Mothersʼ Day poem in 1978 (which I was too busy in May this year to remember to post, what with Census obligations — never agree to work seven even partial days a week for any job, brothers and sisters) and this one. As itʼs Fathersʼ Day today, hereʼs a cold shudder of my birth month for the season.
Youʼre bittertrue, November,
to laugh down my dad,
shivering by starlight,
helpless keys in his hand:
Bitter, November, to remind,
you snowfingered mousemonth,
tickle his heart and snickerly
suck the warmth from his mouth.
November, bitter coldkissing,
never to speak, but spit glazes
on branches. Sheathed twigs
crack — loud, bright windtraces.
Old Novemberʼs bitter faces
float like frozen moths
from the huge night,
immune to a fatherʼs coughs.
after my father suffered some kind of event leaving a work meeting too late at night
16 November 1979
I know my father wouldnʼt like having a brewery embellishing my post on him for Fathers Day.