I'm fond of the poet laureate Ted Kooser and have had his work up here before. Though there are many poems about fathers I could put up in the aftermath of my Dad's death, I'm struck by this one. Kooser writes of a father twenty years gone, a man who didn't have to endure the long, slow, agonizing decline of the frail and the elderly. And in reading this, I found comfort: my papa died at 71, still in excellent health aside from the cancer that consumed his body. Until almost the very end, he was self-sufficient with his mental faculties intact. I never had to see my Dad become feeble or infirm; we never even had to consider the nursing home. As much as I miss him already and will miss him more in the years to come, that is a blessing.
Today you would be ninety- seven
If you had lived, and we would all be
miserable, you and your children,
driving from clinic to clinic,
an ancient, fearful hypochondriac
and his fretful son and daughter,
asking directions, trying to read
the complicated, fading map of cures.
But with your dignity intact
you have been gone for twenty years,
and I am glad for all of us, although
I miss you every day - the heartbeat
under your necktie, the hand cupped
on the back of my neck, Old Spice
in the air, your voice delighted with stories.
On this day each year you loved to relate
that at the moment of your birth
your mother glanced out the window
and saw lilacs in bloom. Well, today
lilacs are blooming in side yards
all over Iowa, still welcoming you.