Here’s the thing about Father’s Day. As a writer, who had the best dad anyone could ask for, a real hero in my eyes, I sometimes wonder if I’m repeating myself. I could wax on for hours about the wonderful human being who makes up half of my DNA, but as I thought about writing something for Father’s Day this year, I struggled about what to say that I hadn’t said a hundred times before. Then last evening, as my husband and I were sitting by the fire, talking about our dads, reliving various memories that don’t always come up in general conversations, the opening of this poem came to me.

A Hard Working Man
(aka My Dad)

Poor health forced him
to retire in his 50s,
but he lived to nearly 90.
Looking back I think
he worked hard enough
in the first 50 years
to fill up the 40 that followed them.

From the time I was small,
it seemed he always worked
two jobs,
then he'd come home,
to do the heavy chores my grandfather,
as superintendent of the apartment,
was meant to do in lieu of rent.
He hauled metal trash cans up
from a sunken courtyard,
shoveled snow during winter storms
and black coal into the furnace.
I can see him there still,
sooty and sweating,
smiling at me to stand back.
He volunteered at church
and the VFW, and he
had time for his family.

In a time when men
didn't do “woman's work”,
he helped my mother around the house,
washing windows and dishes,
and waxing floors.
Child care was a labor of love,
we were his children,
the two little girls he'd dreamed of
years before he even met my mother.
He always made time to play;
to comfort us when we were sick,
a fluffy comforter became snow as
he was driving a sleigh,
clicking his tongue in pretended horse hooves;
to create magic with his imagination
he'd make up stories of how
towns along the train route got their names--
and we believed them with all our heart.

No day truly ended until
the bedtime ritual of good nights,
I love yous, and
“Daddy, bring me a glass of water, please,”
was complete.
If my mother went out to a movie
and left him to watch us at night,
it wouldn't be long before
a faked “Daddy, I had a bad dream”
echoed in the hall
and he'd let me sit beside him,
watching TV until just before
he knew my mother would be home.

Being a dad,
as beloved as his own father
was to him,
was all the reward he ever wanted.
And he was
oh, so good, at being a dad.

In later years when
we'd reminisce
there was one memory
that always came to mind.
Summer nights
when the light lingered long,
I would sit out on the steps
and wait
for him to come up from the subway
after working hard all day.
As soon as I saw him,
I'd race down the block to greet him
with hugs and kisses.
He said if he had to choose,
that was probably his favorite Dad memory.
In a sea filled with thousands
of treasured Dad moments,
I think I'd have to agree.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I miss you every day, but I know you are with me always. I love you.

My dad, my sister, and me, circa 1955

Wishing a very Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s Out there. Thank you for all you do that we never really stop to notice.

~Elise Skidmore ©2020

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