Birthday Poem–The Week My Father Was Dying

The Week My Father Was Dying

The week my father was dying, I fell in love with him—
again. When I was six, I’d proposed, scrawled
I love Daddy over the wood benches in the back
of his shoe repair shop, carved hearts into the
hard plastic of the sewing machine table. 

But the week my father was dying, shrunken frame
slouched in the fort of pillows and sheets on the giant
hospital bed in his living room, oxygen tank in the corner,
his black hair was combed straight, almond-shaped
eyes wide as a child’s, toothy smile yellow and straight.

I stood in the kitchen scooping chocolate ice cream
into a bowl, covered the mound in crushed pineapple.
I felt him staring, so looked over and waved. Up
to his neck in blankets, it took him forever to lift
his big old hand from beneath the fort to wave back. 

I have his hands, and feet. It’s enough to have his wiry
hair, scratchy voice, flat Italian nose, and stubborn streak—
but why the chimp-like hands and feet with every
toe the same size? I want to pluck them off with
the pincer pliers he used to rip the soles off shoes.

He once told me, “You couldn’t be more like me if you tried.”
I drink to excess, choose damaged lovers, live 3000 miles
away from family. But the week my father was dying, I sat
with him, said, Everything good about me came from you.

You’re my best friend, I said, and I love you.
Thank you, he said. Some kids don’t feel that way about their dads.
I laughed out loud, rested my arms around the declining
slopes of his shoulders. He felt so small.



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