Archives for posts with tag: parents

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Open to Interpretation
by Vijaya Gowrisankar

I am still waiting to understand the look in your eyes
when you extended your hand and squeezed me
for one last time

I am still waiting to understand the look in your eyes
through the pain I felt when I grew from a child
to an adult, overnight

I am still waiting to understand the look in your eyes,
the message that everyone conveyed when they turned
their backs on us, strangers we were once more

I am still waiting to understand the look in your eyes
What were your dreams for me as a parent? Do my choices
match who you dreamt I would become over the years?

I am still waiting to understand the look in your eyes
and the anger in my heart, for never having forgotten
or forgiven you for leaving me when you did

I am still waiting to understand the look in your eyes,
for time never stopped, and it didn’t allow me to stand
in the same place that you left me, bereft

I am still waiting to understand the look in your eyes,
that has influenced every decision I’ve made,
often wondering what your guidance would have been

I am still waiting to understand the look in your eyes,
through the joys and sorrows I’ve embraced over the years,
missing you at every step

I am still waiting to understand the look in your eyes,
and the message you were trying to convey. Was that
last squeeze “sorry” or “take care” or “do your best”?

PAINTING: The forest that watches me by Marina Pallares (2016).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is dedicated to the last moments I spent with my father before he left for his heavenly abode. As life has evolved, I’ve often wondered what things would have been like if he were still there. Those last moments have been an anchor and have often guided me for critical life decisions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vijaya Gowrisankar is the author of the poetry collections InspireReflectExploreSavour–Art and Poetry meetEvolve, Shine, Unlikely Friendships, and Cherish. Her blog Grow Together shares insights from the greatest influencers and focuses on personal growth. She has been published in over 80 anthologies. Visit her blogFacebook page, and Amazon Author page, and find her on Twitter.

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Thank you, Thanks you all.
by Joan Leotta

Driving North on I-95 in March During the Pandemic—Thank you to Everyone Along the Way, Thank you to the Workers Who Made Her Move Possible in the time of Covid.

Dogwood, redbud, already bloomed where we live in North Carolina,
now pop out from between leaf buds of their deciduous brethren in the more oaken than pine forests of Virginia as we glide north on an almost empty asphalt ribbon. Usually packed with cars and trucks, now only the occasional vehicle passes, and we hope that gas stations and state visitor centers are open for the necessities, gasoline, and rest stops. Lunch is packed this time to eat in the car as we drive up to help our daughter transition from her condo to a newly built townhouse.

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Arriving, we bear witness with her the empty streets in Washington, closed stores, restricted hours, and help her balance on the emotional tightrope of possible closure and the need to leave her old house to transfer her goods, to make a new place her home. Will cable be able to connect so she can work from home? Will the movers be considered “essential?”

Amid all that uncertainty, we, her parents, bring the spring of certainty that whatever else has changed, whatever strictures, sadnesses that Covid carries, she has our love and will survive any storm and that she will surely bloom.

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Yes, the workers were allowed to finish the construction, bankers met, movers came on time, garage door was installed, cable was connected, and we were able celebrate with dinner in her new home. We stood at the window, looked out, and raised a glass to thank them all, although we could not invite them in.

Graphic by BilltheCat, used by permission. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: When she is not playing with words on page or stage, Joan Leotta loves nothing more than sitting at table or walking the beach, laughing and talking with family. She spins poems, articles, essays, short stories, and performance pieces most often around her core interests—food, family, nature, travel, and strong women. Her poetry books include  Languid Lusciousness with Lemon (Finishing Line Press), Nature’s Gifts from Stanzaic Stylings (free online), and a mini-book from origami poems (free, but also printable). Another short collection will be released by Origami in 2020. Visit her at joanleotta.wordpress.com and on Facebook.

PHOTO: The author (left) with daughter Jennie and husband Joe.

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Dad’s Lunch Box
by Donna Hilbert

Dad climbs down
the telephone pole,
stretches out under a pepper tree,
opens his lunch box:
black metal,
substantial like a vault,
or a government building
in a Balkan country.
Under its dome
wire arms hold
a Thermos of coffee.
On the bottom floor,
Vienna sausages on a bed
of mayonnaise, white bread.
For dessert, butterscotch
cream-center cookies.
Dad unwraps a sandwich, eats.
He pours coffee into the cup
his Thermos lid makes,
dips a cookie, watches it bloat,
then holds his lips to the rim,
slips the sweet bits
into his mouth.
I like to think
he savors pleasure
before he stands the box on one end,
touches a forefinger to his tongue,
his damp fingertip
gleaning crumbs
to feed the sparrows who wait
in slender leaves.
Then, one foot
over the other,
he climbs the pole again.

Originally appeared in Traveler in Paradise (PEARL Editions, 2004).

PHOTO: The author’s parents, Pollyanna and Don Bruster, during the mid-1960s.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mom and dad spent their entire working lives in what in this pandemic time would be considered essential services: Mom as a postal clerk and Dad as a telephone lineman. If they were working today, they would be masked and working for the common good as they did on every workday of their lives.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems (Tebot Bach, 2018). She is a monthly contributing writer to the on-line journal Verse-Virtual. Her work has appeared numerous publications including Rattle, The Los Angeles Times, Braided Way, Chiron Review, A Year of Being Here, Cultural Weekly, Sheila Na Gig, Zocalo Public Square, and is widely anthologized. She writes and leads private workshops in Southern California, where she makes her home. Visit her Amazon author page, find her on Facebook and at her website, donnahilbert.com.

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Masks and Mothers
by Mary Langer Thompson

I don my mask this Mother’s Day
to deliver flowers to my aging-in-place
already aged mom through the garage door
of her Sun City home where
she’s isolated and can see no sun
or city and waits on the laundry porch
wearing her protection that I brought her yesterday.

I race home to wave at my muzzled son
through my window. I can’t let him in
because his dad is sick already.
But then I decide to see him in the flesh,
so fling open the door, whereupon
he lifts his foot to show his “Call Mom” socks
then runs to leave toilet paper and an orchid
on the side of the house.

We’re sequestering looking surreal
with dark circles under our eyes and punked hair,
like that muffled Tape Man of Las Vegas,
while we silently mime truths of love.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Who would think like could be so hectic while sequestering? Mary Langer Thompson is a retired school principal and former English teacher who now writes full time. In 2012, she was the Senior Poet Laureate of California. She leads The Poemsmiths, a poetry critique group that meets bi-weekly, currently on Zoom.

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Trying to Keep My Father Safe in the Time of Covid-19
by Gail Goepfert

At 97, hasn’t he survived it all.
Rolled all the dice. Laid it all on the line.

World War II. Battle of the Bulge.
Baths taken from his helmet in foxholes.

Reckless teen years of three children.
Gallbladder, sinus, cataract surgery.

Job loss and transfers. Debt.
Widowhood. Late-stage cerebral fog.

He functions but totters now      shuffles—
too many falls of late. His knees buckle.

I caution, then will him not to try the stairs—
picture him in isolation, a hospital casualty.

No more Wal-mart, Dad. No more. I hear
myself beg. I fear he can’t master mask

and gloves, cart and cane. Or remember
not to rub his cloudy eyes, his drippy nose.

We delay the lawyer will-signing—put off
planning for demise for fear of dying.

PAINTING: “Crepuscular Old Man” by Salvador Dali (1917-1918).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gail Goepfert, an associate editor at RHINO Poetry, is the author of three books—A Mind on Pain (Finishing Line Press), Tapping Roots (Kelsay Books), and Get Up Said the World appearing in 2020 (Červená Barva Press). Recent publications include Journal of Compressed Arts, Bluestem, Rogue Agent, and Beloit Poetry Journal.Visit her at gailgoepfert.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

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Finders Keepers
by Erin K. Parker

I found the ring on the ground next to the entrance to the miniature golf course. Gasping in surprise, I bent down to pick it up, and held it up to my dad. He took it between his fingers and smiled.

“It’s pretty!” he said, and handed it back to me.

The ring was silver and had a knot etched on the top. I slipped it on to my first finger, and it fit perfectly. I’d never had a ring before.

“Well, look at that!” my dad said. “It’s your lucky day.”

“Aren’t we supposed to turn it in?” I reluctantly asked, already feeling the loss.

“No, why would you do that? Finders, keepers,” he said, winking.

I kept the ring on all day while we shot bright golf balls through windmills and over small bridges. The sun was bright and we were smiling. When I picked up my yellow golf ball, the ring clacked against the hard plastic. I stood up straighter, laughed louder, and felt special. I had a new ring.

Later, I pushed the thoughts of the girl who had lost the ring out of my head, and told anyone who would listen that my dad gave me the ring as a present. Not for my birthday or anything, but just because he saw it and knew I would like it. Because he loved me and wanted me to have something pretty.

I told the story so often that I started to believe it.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: A ring that looks like the one I found that day.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: At some point I started to hate that ring and I stopped wearing it. The guilt of not turning it in caught up to me, and it became a constant reminder of my dad’s emotional distance. I am not sure what happened to it, but I no longer have it. I’d like to think someone else found it and it brought them joy.

PHOTO: The author at age nine.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Erin K. Parker
won her first Creative Writing contest when she was 11, and has been writing ever since. Her work has been published by Uno Kudo, Red Fez, Drunk Monkeys, Cadence Collective, Lost in Thought, Timid Pirate Publishing, The Altar Collective, Santa Fe Lit Review, Lucid Moose Lit, and the Alice in Wonderland Anthology from Silver Birch Press. Erin was nominated for Best of the Net 2014. Her collection of short stories, The Secret and the Sacred, was published by Unknown Press and is available at Amazon.com.

My Life Force
by Vincent Van Ross

My prized possession
Is not the gold chain
I wear around my neck
Nor is it my collection of gems

My prized possession
Is not the sculptures and paintings
I have collected
Over the years

My prized possession
Is not the money
I have in my cash box
Or in my bank account

My prized possession
Is not my house or my car
Nor even the thousands of books
I have in my collection

My prized possessions
Are two frames
That hang from the walls
Of my living room

My prized possessions
Are the two pictures
Of my mother and my father
In those two frames

My mother and father
May not be with me anymore
But, they bless me from that wall
They are my life force which keeps me going

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My father A Van Ross (left) and mother Treasa Van Ross (right).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I lost my mother in 2001 and my father in 2015. But, they are still alive to me. I feel their presence in their photos that are hanging from my living room walls. I still kiss them and seek their blessings every time I leave my home as I used to do when they were alive. I feel as if they are peeping out of those pictures and keeping a watch over me and blessing me all the time.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vincent Van Ross is a journalist and editor based at New Delhi, India. He writes on national and international politics, defense, environment, travel, spirituality, and scores of other topics. Apart from this, he dabbles in a little bit of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and humorous writings. Vincent’s articles and features have appeared in over a dozen newspapers and magazines in India and Bangladesh. He is also a renowned photographer and an art critic. His poems are littered in anthologies and journals across the world and on numerous poetry sites and facebook groups on the web.

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Crescent Bay
by Diana Decker

The world tells me that I will be safe with you
so I let myself be lifted to your shoulders
and we walk out to sea.

First the warm, hissing foam
then the knee-waves, where my terror begins
I try to tell you
my breath-holding grip tries to tell you
but you laugh and turn
and slam your shoulder into the salty wall.

I cannot know how many times you’ve tried to die
but this feels like one of them
and I wonder:
Why are you taking me with you?
I want to go—I do
but first, there is my life

How could you forget?

Not long afterwards you found
a dark ocean of stars to take you
above the dry-wind desert
and I have no way to tell you
that I grew and taught myself to dive
deep beneath the breakers
and push up into the sun and sharp air
gasping high on the other side.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me posing, trying to be a bathing beauty, but preoccupied with events to come.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My Gamma had a beach house on Crescent Bay in Laguna Beach, California, where her five sons and their families would come for beach time and to create family memories. This is mine at four years of age, about my father, who was both fearless and filled with fear. He took his own life shortly afterward.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Diana Decker is a poet whose work has appeared in Silver Birch Press, Poppy Road Review, Verdad Journal of Literature and Art, The Avocet, Mothers Always Write, KY Story’s anthology Getting Old, and deLuge. Diana writes, sings, and counts the birds on the small farm in Western New York that she shares with her husband.

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Shells of the Summer of ’62
by Joan Leotta

The soft ripple of low tide
rolled in to chill our toes.
Dad said the damp sand
was good for walking.
He pulled up the collar of my jacket.
Wind was pushing dark clouds our way.
There’d be no afternoon of sun and sandcastles.
We hopped over lines of soft white foam
zigzagging across the strip of brown sand
between our place and the ocean.
Gulls screeched, “Go back!”
I never looked up. My eyes were set
to hunt treasures in dawn’s tide.
At last I spotted something!
An orange fan! A perfect scallop shell!
Surf crashed with sudden interest in my search.
Foam fingers fastened on my prize,
pulling it back out into the ocean.
“Dad!”

Without even rolling up his pants,
he chased the wave back out toward the rocks.
He bent over and put down his hand.
Another wave swelled up.
“Dad, look out!”
In another second he was completely soaked.
But he had my shell.
I have it still.

SOURCE: First published in Older Eyes, Younger Tongues, Anthology, Northwoods Press (1990), and shared with friends on Facebook a year ago for Father’s Day.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me (right) at the beach in Hyannis, Massachusetts, but a couple of years after the events of the poem—with my cousin, also named Joan.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Our family took a one week vacation every year. In 1962, when I was 14, my mother wanted to go to Cape Cod for our vacation. So, we drove 12 hours to Hyannis from Pittsburgh. I announced I was going to get up at dawn to hunt for seashells because I had read it was the best time to find them. My father gave up his vacation sleep-ins to get up with me. Every day.

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After he died in 1987, my Mom found a box of seashells in our basement—my collection from that 1962 vacation. It was then this poem came to me. The actual incident never occurred, but the poem describes my dad so well that anyone who knew him, thinks it’s a real story until I explain. When I talk about poetry to school groups I often read the poem and then show the audience the shell pictured above right. Yes, I still have the box of shells. My Dad? Well, he is always in my heart. (Photo: The author’s father, Gabriel DiLeonardo.)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta has been writing, performing, and collecting seashells since childhood. Now that she lives near the beach, in Calabash, North Carolina, her husband thought she would stop collecting. He was wrong. Joan’s picture book, Rosa’s Shell (coming out in 2017 from THEAQ LLC) is based on this poem.

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Tree Fallings
by Kimberly Gotches

Around midnight, I woke to heavy footsteps and a thud. Santa! I tiptoed into the living room. Instead of a pile of presents, our tree covered the floor, flattened like someone sat on it. Our angel topper’s halo was cracked in half, two golden crescents strewn atop a layer of shattered white lights.

“I didn’t do it,” I told Mom. “Maybe Santa knocked it over?”

“Dad lost his balance again.” Mom stared at one of his bottles on the table with the milk and cookies.

That’s when I heard the snoring. Dad was sleeping next to the tree.

I tried to pick it up to make Mom stop crying, but it was so heavy and my hands were too small. I called out for Dad to help, but he didn’t wake up. Shoulders sagging, Mom swept up the broken pieces around Dad.

***

“I need something to hold it up,” said Mom.

“I don’t know, look in the garage.” I covered my ears before the door slammed behind Dad.

The garage was a scary place. Mice camped out there. My misguided memory is of huge rats the size of my head. But Mom was like Clara in the Nutcracker, braving the Mouse King and his troops. She marched in and returned with thick, white rope. She tied the rope through the curtain hook and secured the tree.

***

Rick, Mom’s new boyfriend, witnessed the next Tree Falling. I heard Mom cry and covered my ears before the door slammed behind Rick.

When I uncovered my ears, I heard the footsteps return.

There was Rick with a toolbox in one hand and a piece of wood in the other. He drilled the tree stand firmly to the wood.

Although it wobbled, it never fell again.

SOURCE: This piece is drawn from the author’s  in-process memoir on holiday recollections. Follow Kimberly’s website to see when this memoir is available.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We all go through stretches of life where we are wobbly, and sometimes we fall, multiple times. I know if I’m down, I have the strength to pick myself up. I also know I have support when I can’t do it alone. These are lessons my family has taught me.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A former youth services librarian from Chicagoland, Kimberly Gotches now writes and performs in New Mexico – the Land of Enchantment. She has nearly 10 years of experience telling stories at libraries, daycare centers, and schools. Before that, she dedicated herself to older adults as a Longterm Care Case Manager, leading original storytelling, improv, and writing workshops. A winner of the Intergeneration 2013 Storytelling Contest, Kimberly writes original stories that celebrate the benefits of intergenerational relationships. She draws from coursework in creative writing, acting, movement/dance, expressive art therapy, and improvisation to offer dynamic stories through both print and performance.

PHOTO: Christmas 2012 in Lombard, Illinois, with the author costumed as a tree and her stepdad, Rick. Rick’s love and support have helped more than just the Christmas tree stand tall!