I Kept Waiting

I Kept Waiting

I kept waiting for my dad to come home,

to walk down the street, 144th Street to be

exact. Actually, my dad had never done that be-

 

fore to the best of my memory. He drove

just about every where, but for some reason,

I, a seventeen year old, senior in high school,

 

stood in the living room looking out the big

bay window expecting, hoping, desiring, crying

out in a stone, cold, silent way to see my dad,

 

my dad walking

 

home. My dad didn’t do that, nor did he do it when I

slept dreaming that hie would walk down 144th

street on his way home.

 

My dad didn’t walk down the street and he didn’t come

home, his home, my home, our home.  He wouldn’t

ever again sit in the chair by that big bay window

 

smoking his Chesterfield non-filter cigarettes sucking

deeply on a draw and exhaling with utter satisfaction

while he told me never ever to start the filthy habit

 

of smoking. He wouldn’t ever again lie down on the

 

couch under the big, bay window with pains shooting

down his arms and saying to me when I walked in

the room after school one day

 

that I needed to drive him ASAP to the hospital

because he really wasn’t feeling very well at all

and I knew that it was pretty serious.

 

He came home from the hospital two weeks later in

a really weakened state after I had visited him only

twice during that time because it was my senior year

 

and I was really busy with which whatever it is that

 

seniors in high school are busy, not to mention

never ending a sentence with a dangling participle

no matter how awkward it makes the sentence.

 

He lived another year but didn’t work much and

every penny that he made from his work came in to

keep things going and if he didn’t work, it didn’t come

 

in and I knew it and it weighed heavily on his mind,

ever so heavily.  So one evening when he was feeling

up to it, he left the house to make house calls to sell

 

head stones to those who had recently lost loved ones

 

or to put it more bluntly, who had loved ones die.

I was napping on the couch and his words to me

as he walked out the door were that I shouldn’t

 

sleep the evening away and that I should get

up and do my homework.  Next thing I knew the

phone was ringing and it was a call from the police

 

station that my dad had stepped in front of a train

and had been killed.  I think the officer actually said

killed himself.  I said it was a joke. He said no. I called

 

my married sister and we picked up my mom from her

 

work as a sales person in a women’s dress shop.

We went to view the body, that is my brother-in-law

actually looked. And so, for a long time I stood looking out

 

of that bay window for my dad to walk down 144th Street,

and then after the house was sold and my mom and I

moved and then moved and moved again, of course,

 

I couldn’t look out the big bay window looking

for my dad to come home, but I couldn’t stop dreaming

that I was standing in front of that window watching and

 

waiting for my dad to come home.  Through college, semin-

 

ary, marriage, birth of my son and then daughter and mov-

ing to another state, and then one day I realized that I didn’t

dream that dream any more and that I just remembered being

 

a seventeen-year-old waiting for his dad to come home.

Back in Kentucky

Back in Kentucky

Back in Kentucky when he was a young, wet-behind-the-ears

minister who pastored Presbyterian churches he determined not

to send out ordinary, typical “messages from the pastor,” that basic-

ally were attempts by the pastor to make those who got the newsletter

and who actually bothered to open it and who hadn’t been in wor-

ship for a while feel guilty or the messages were stewardship updates

on how far behind the church was in the budget which also was

designed to make parishioners feel guilty or they were syrupy senti-

ments about Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild. After all, he had been

an English major and had gotten some poetry published in his college

literary publication and had been the editor of his seminary’s student

literary publication, so he wrote short stories and editorials on national

and local politics from his Christian perspective and poetry, mostly haikus

which didn’t take too long to write. He put two of his college English

professors on the mailing list – one from community college days and

his courses in Shakespeare and one from his junior and senior years and

his classes in creative writing.  Once, he wrote a tribute in a newsletter

to his Shakespeare prof. and when he was on a trip to Indiana stopped to

say hi. The prof. had framed the tribute and it hung in his home study.

After the minister, now-not-so-wet-behind-the-ears, moved back to Mich-

igan, he visited his creative writing teacher who told him how much the

newsletter articles had meant to him and then kidded the minister about

still having some hair on his head. The prof. had saved some copies from

all those years. The minister didn’t get any of the writing from those news-

letters published in periodicals or journals or anthologies, but he did get

them published in the heads and the hearts of two mentors.  Now the minister

has a photo of the one hanging on the wall of his home study. He was teach-

ing Shakespeare at London University on a professor exchange when he

just dropped dead while in his fifties while at his desk and the minister thinks about

the other every time he drives past the street where the prof. used to live

before he died at a pretty young age from smoking too much.  Then the min-

ister thought about impermanence and the aging paper of his newsletters and

while it had been a long time since he thought of heaven in a geographical

way, he wondered if his profs. remembered him and then he remembered that

eternity was in his head and heart and that he would simply leave the rest

to God.

The Really Important Events

The Really Important Events

The really important events of human life

are recorded not in section D of USA Today

or retold on entertainment programs about

the entertainment industry and celebrities or

maybe they are

 

if such observations of endless, total

self-absorption might offer something more

than the predictable “un-uh, un-uh” illustrations

and admonitions in sermons –

What is it

 

you are spending precious time watching and

reading, Reverend? But rather in the really,

big, thick, dense tomes of the nineteenth

century Russian novelists, the novels

and short stories

 

of John Updike and the short stories of Ray-

mond Carver (who died of smoking rather

than drinking which he also almost did) who

wrote observations of endless, total self-absorption

and mundane events.

 

And maybe we asked ourselves, What is it in those

short stories of mundanity and novels of self-absorbed

protagonists we read for Stanfield, Jellema, Prins and the

really great, gay guy who got beaten up in Hyde Park

by his partner?

What Could Have Been Today

What Could Have Been Today

What could have been today,

but we didn’t delay —

Two drizzles in four months

of winter in the desert.

Two thousand

miles away,

it hasn’t stopped raining

for three weeks, two in April,

one in May.

I missed the rain half-way

through that winter.

Now I’m told the moon

will be the brightest it

has been any day

in the last twenty-years,

because of the moon’s

and earth’s sway

toward each other.

Starting at dusk as the moon

rises in the west it will

be a magnificent day

showing two thousand

miles away,

where the sky is clear

and it hasn’t rained

in many, many

a day.

If we hadn’t left

that day before the merry,

merry month of

May,

I would be sitting on the bench

along the way

with the dog wandering a short

way away.

Should I buy a ticket,

fly that way

or just give it my

usual, “What the hey!”?

It would cost a lot

less just to stay

in the gray,

get a good night’s sleep

and watch it

tomorrow on U-tube.

What’s another day?

Throwing Stones, A Short Story

Throwing Stones

One day when I was ten I went to my friend Johnny’s house to play. His family lived in the house that used to be my dad’s office and my Auntie Anna had lived in the back before she got so bad my dad had to take her to the Oak Lawn old peoples’ home.

She was Auntie because she wasn’t my dad’s mom.  She had been his foster mom, but her son took off for Dallas and my dad took care of her.  I remember watching her give herself shots in her legs for diabetes.

At one time she had lived with us over my mother’s objections, but that ended when my mother discovered that Auntie Anna used the hand towels to wipe her bottom.  That was something of which my Dutch mother certainly wouldn’t approve. That’s when she went to live in the apartment behind my dad’s office on Halsted Street before she went to Oak Lawn.

I remember going to see her in Oak Lawn. She didn’t have a room. She had a bed in a long row of beds. My dad told me it was called a ward.

My dad and mom built a house on the street behind my dad’s office on Halsted and my dad sold that office to Johnny’s folks.  They made the office into a convenience store and lived in the apartment behind it.  I would go into Johnny’s house and think about my Auntie Anna.

She had been a really big woman with stockings that came up to her knees.  She would lift her house dress a bit to give herself the shot in the side of her thigh. I don’t think she ever winced. She didn’t mind spreading her legs apart and sometimes I could see the edge of her underwear.  Mostly I just stood to the side and watched.

I remembered my mother saying to one of the neighbors that my Auntie Anna was no virgin when she got married and had tried it out before getting married. She said that was the way it was in Sweden.  I wasn’t sure what trying out marriage meant, but I couldn’t imagine my Auntie Anna ever being married.  She was so old and fat and had big bushy eyebrows and hair over her lip and hairy legs and she took her teeth out every night.

Johnny and I were bored that day that I went over to play and we decided to throw stones at the big, eighteen-wheel trucks that roared down Halsted. Before we knew it, a car was pulling into the parking lot in front of the store.  A man got out and started yelling at us.  He said we had broken his windshield.

We ran back to the house and Johnny’s mom came to the side door to talk to the man.  She asked us if we had been throwing stones. We said yes, but that only at the side of big trucks.  We didn’t think we had missed a truck and hit the windshield of the car. The man said he was going to report the incident to the police and sue us.  Johnny’s mom yelled at him as he walked to his car.

Later, Johnny’s mom said the man couldn’t be trusted because he and his kind killed Jesus.

Johnny’s sister said, “Oh, mom. Jesus was a Jew.”

“No he wasn’t. He would never be a Jew. He was a Catholic.”

Johnny’s mom insisted it was true and that the killer of Jesus would say anything and they were always trying to get money and that he probably got the crack in his windshield from a stone kicked up by the tire of an eighteen-wheeler.  She crossed herself.

I went home to tell my dad.  I didn’t think I had hit the car windshield and I didn’t know if Johnny had. But I wasn’t sure. I told my dad and he looked me in the eye and told me that I wasn’t supposed to throw stones at trucks and we would do what was right by the man with the broken windshield.

I told my dad that I thought Jesus had died a long time ago. My dad agreed. Then I said that Johnny’s mom said that the man with the broken windshield and his kind had killed Jesus.

My dad looked at me and said, “We all did, son.  We all did.”