My Father died late last week. He had been bed-ridden and miserable for months. Below is the poem I wrote and read at his Memorial service.
This is mostly for those present who wanted a copy.
Some Facts about Fishing with my Father
(As read at his memorial service – 20 November, 2013)
My earliest memories of my father
are watching football with him,
meaning he sat on the couch trying
to watch the game while his son
Orbited that couch like a tiny hurricane.
As I grew older he tried
to teach me how to fish,
meaning he sat on the shore demonstrating
whatever he did with lines and hooks while his son
Bounced around the rocks like a hyperactive frog.
I am hyperactive;
a fact like the color of my eyes.
So my father, a problem-solver by trade, adapted to this fact.
We would go hiking,
meaning he would huff up the trail while his son
Orbited around him through the wilderness.
One of my last boyhood memories
of my father
is the backpacking expedition
I talked him into.
There was no orbiting.
I packed a bag nearly as heavy as I was
I picked the route
and got us lost
(foreshadowing much of my future)
but we laughed together
that night in the wilderness
Shortly before he disappeared from my life.
My father was a workaholic;
a fact like the color of his hair.
Unemployment led to depression led
to a running vehicle in a closed garage.
I was one step into manhood when
his letter reached me
with the story of how he came out
from that dark room full of poison.
“I realized,” he wrote, “that the problem
had been myself all along.
I was the problem.
And that was a problem I could solve.”
The man who found his way
out of that garage
is the one most of us here remember.
It is a fact that I did not grow up
with my father
and observed his life as much as a
cautionary tale than as a
model to emulate.
the man had his moments;
more than I give him credit for.
He told me once
perhaps to stop my whining
as he picked the fishing hook oout of my jacket:
“It’s all hard.
All of it.
But when you realize that,
It starts to get easier.”
In later years, I would realize his secret
about that backpacking trip:
we were never lost.
He let me think we were lost
to see if I could figure it out
like fathers do.
Now, a good preacher
could teach a lesson here
about how Our Father lets us
lose our way in the wilderness
To see if we can figure it out.
My father was such a preacher,
once upon a time,
but his son is a poet.
poets just blurt out secrets
Trying to set up the punch-line.
I am an outdoorsman
who never learned to fish.
A stigma in some circles
and totally my fault.
I am also a Cowboys fan
who does not live in Dallas
A stigma in many circles
and that ….
That I can blame totally
on my father.
By Tony Padegimas