Patrick T. Reardon (right) at the age of two with his brother David. Not shown, their baby sister Mary Beth, three months
Bridge
by Patrick T. Reardon

My first job landed on me like a ton of children
on my four-hundred-and-twenty-eighth day. It
began with my brother. Two sisters followed.
Two more brothers. Eight more sisters. The first
shepherds, guardians, models, corrects, leads,
parents, loves. I watch in Burger King as the
oldest girl has her eyes out for each of the four
small ones. She tracks the route of each, the
message of the lips and cheeks. She knows each
inner fabric — the stories lived out there, she
hears in blips and blurts and epic runs of words
and visions that she holds in her heart. She is
the translator, the middleman, the bridge that
each side walks across to the other. She carries
a weight on her six-year-old shoulders. She knows
the weight I carry on my sixty-seven-year-old
shoulders. I carry the baby because the baby
must be carried and because I find the baby
endlessly a wonderment, flesh of my flesh, bone
of my bone, my blood. I smile when the baby
smiles. I fill up with the sight of the wide world
in the wide eyes of the baby. In the wide eyes
of each of the babies, and all of them. Mine is
a happy weight, and dolorous. I want to wrap
my wings around them all, pull them together
in my protecting embrace. But I am too small,
then and now.

PHOTO: Patrick T. Reardon (right) at the age of two with his brother David.  Not shown, their baby sister Mary Beth, three months.  They were joined later by eleven other siblings.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have become aware of the joyful and heavy task that I carry as the oldest of 14 children.  Like most jobs, there is much about being the oldest that brings delight but then also much that brings pain.

Patrick T. Reardon..

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Chicagoan Patrick T. Reardon is the author of Requiem for David, a poetry collection published by Silver Birch Press and of seven other books, including Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious examination of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence.