Tag Archives: remember

A poem for my father


It’s been a while since I posted any poetry on here, and today seems a good day to change that.  This is a poem for my father, whom I will always carry in my heart, no matter how many years go by or miles I travel.  Daddy, I love you.



hidden in the nighttime shadows of this present world
are you watching me?
can you hear the tremor in my voice? 

Do you remember that cold winter morning
you called a taxi to take me the mile to school?
while others sent children trudging through mountains of snow in search of that brick schoolhouse
you ordered up a taxi—delivered on a silver platter
an absurd luxury in our tiny town of 9,000.
And I knew your love.

I miss that confidence—
love as tangible as bricks and mortar
or your hand in mine
sweeping me into your arms as you
killed the mouse
calmed the fears
sang me asleep every night with your magic charm
            “Good night,
            sleep tight,
            don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
As if I could fear bed bugs with a champion sleeping down the hall. 

Do you remember that cursed night you first knew?
I hope not.
I hope it is wiped forever clean from your memory.
That night our world changed,
I’ve never known such fear. 

There are so many things I want to tell you . . .
how thankful I am for the years we had together
how sorry I am for all the ways I failed you 

If I could go back to that night
I swear I’d do it differently
our last chance to be together
I chose myself over you
I swear, if I could do it again . . . 

But there are no do-overs when it comes to death.

Do you watch us from the shadows?
This lost family you left behind
or is it too painful? 

Can you hear me cry out for you when I think no one is listening?
longing for a shiny, yellow taxi to come deliver me to you



when the busyness that consumes my life
is hiccupped by some strange interruption,
I hear you whispering to me—
Sometimes I hear your voice and I smile
but often I blink back tears
hating myself for having ever forgotten
for letting silly distractions steal you from me

you say
and sometimes I try to push your voice away
too comfortable in my self-made world
to want your memory creeping in
interrupting my plans

you cry
and you call me back
and the memories wash over me in waves
and I am all alone in an ocean of

“I remember”
I whisper.
“I will remember.”

A Toast to Haggis, Bagpipes, and Burns Suppers


A couple of years ago I discovered a fascinating tradition known as a Burns Supper.  A Burns Supper is an extravagant dinner party to celebrate the life of Scottish poet Robert Burns, who is perhaps best known for penning the lyrics to the song “Auld Lang Syne.”   And so once a year, around the world (but especially in Scotland) there is celebrating, singing, toasting and poetry reading in honor of the late, great Burns. According to the source of all good and true knowledge—Wikipedia, “[Burns’ Suppers] may be formal or informal but they should always be entertaining. The only items which the informal suppers have in common are haggis, Scotch whisky and perhaps a poem or ten.”

Each supper follows an elaborate ritual which was started at the end of the 18th century, on the first anniversary of Burns’ death. The meal starts out with a welcome speech and then an old Scottish prayer (or “grace”), which so beautifully goes:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

(Yeah, that there fancy language is what them Scotts call the Lallans Lowland Scotts Language.)

After the first course is served, then comes a procession to honor the main course—haggis, of course. Bagpipes are played, people stand and then the haggis is honored with the beloved poem—“Address to a Haggis” which so beautifully starts out:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!

The guests eat their haggis, tatties and neeps (that’s potatoes and turnips to us non-Scottish folk) and then the toasts begin. There’s a toast to the monarch, a toast to Burns, a toast to the toaster, a toast to the “lassies” and a toast to the “laddies.” And then there’s the poetry.

The evening ends up with the guests laughing, teasing, sometimes even dancing at the memory of the great Burns. And all that got me thinking, when I leave this world, I think that’s how I’d like my friends to remember me. Minus the haggis, perhaps.  Because other than that “great chieftain o’ the pudding-race” thing, I think Burns and his friends got a pretty good thing going.

I mean, I’ve spent a lot of time counseling kids who have lost a loved one. And I’ve been in their shoes—I was eleven when my father died.  So I know how lost you can feel when someone disappears out of your life like that. It’s like there’s constantly an empty seat at the table that you’re waiting to be filled. And despite all that waiting, it stays empty. Worse yet, you don’t even talk about it. Forget white elephants in the room, we’ve got empty chairs here. And I’m not talking about nice, average-sized, wooden, dining room chairs. We’re talking those hunormous (yes, that’s right, I just used a completely made-up word back there), big-enough for Big Foot size rocking chairs you see at furniture factories in the Great Smokies.

And with all that empty chair space filling up your living room, there’s an awful lot of stuff to not talk about. So maybe those crazy haggis-loving Scotts aren’t so crazy after all. Maybe it’s time for us all to dust off those empty chairs and fill them with some par-tay. Maybe it’s really not that crazy to celebrate all those things we love and miss—whether it’s the greatness of their poetry or the wackiness of their taste in food. Perhaps that’s how we keep our heads above water when that giant chair threatens to take over. We set aside the days and the times, we get together with our friends who share this empty chair, and we laugh and cry, we eat and we share stories, and we remember. Because just maybe, that’s the only way to deal with hunormous, Big Foot size chairs. We remember.

So, here’s a toast to Robert Burns and to his haggis-loving, bagpipe-playing, Burns-Supper-attending friends. And here’s a toast to you. May you celebrate the lives who have left Big-Foot chairs in your life, and may that celebration light your path to a more complete story.

(This was originally published in 2008 on another blog.)