in the shadows
He was still alive
when I took his hand;
though his strength was almost gone,
his eyes were child bright
with the good fear
of that first big kid ride
at a real grownup amusement park.
You see, I knew he had ridden
Coney Island's Cyclone
because he had ridden it with me;
I could see that he was thinking
this was going to be an even bigger ride.
There are always conversations
precious trivia left unsaid,
it goes along with living
with memories of the dead.
He tried to say it all then with his eyes;
he couldn't talk real loud,
could hardly talk at all,
his life clock was ticking fast
and the spring was almost all run down;
I said, "So they tell me
you're taking a little trip
and leaving the old broad home."
He tried to laugh,
could only gasp
with all the energy he could spare.
I held his hand and walked with him
as they rolled him down the drive
to a shiny quilted meat wagon.
He smiled when I asked
if he wanted them to blow the siren loud,
just for him.
When we got to the door
a young paramedic dared
to try to move me back,
but I was holding hands.
I scared the poor young boy
with eyes my Pa had given me
long before I was a man.
His own eyes sparkled up at me,
and he was looking proud,
going off to die
while I said, "If they've got dancing girls
you better save a few for me,
because I'll be there directly,
you'll see it really won't be long."
With that he squeezed my hand
with all the old familiar strength
that I had always known in him,
when I was just a child,
when I'd wait for him,
days on end,
if this time was going to be the time
he was never coming back,
but then each time,
when he finally did return,
he would grab my hand and squeeze
until I thought
maybe it would break;
then he would throw me on his shoulder
and we'd barely make it through the door.
I had come to wonder where that man had gone,
in long years of growing old apart,
when all of life turned hard and cold
and he'd grown smaller in my eyes.
I'll never know why
he didn't kill my mother
for the hell she put us through;
I guess that's where his strength had gone,
trying to save his children's sanity,
trying not to lose his mind,
trying just to stay alive;
he really was a stronger man than I.
So, looking down at him
knowing I had made him laugh,
knowing he was not afraid
to be afraid,
knowing he had realized
he had no more need to save his energy,
I let him crush my hand in his
and give it all to me.
©2003, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017 by icebox