Dear Papa

Papa,

I pray you went with angel song
that Mother Mary took your work-worn hand
and led you home
that you found peace
and glory
and God
I pray Heaven was as you imagined it, from
faith, and books,
and tradition

but I can’t help but believe that Heaven
is a custom fit
and somehow clouds and harps don’t fit with you.

Papa, this is what I hope.
I hope where you are now, there are
old friends and family
yarns spun in tin sheds
or on creaking verandahs
I hope the Bundy is cold
and poured strong
and the Coke with it good, not bad, for you
I hope for every meal there’s ham steaks
cream and custard
cheese in thick slices
white bread

I hope no one feeds you pumpkin
or grows geraniums,
that all the books are non-fiction and
there aren’t too many trimmings on the Rosary
and that everyone understands you even when
you stumble over your words because your mind
goes too fast for your mouth.

I hope you are strong and whole
that there are no hot water bottles
or chiropractors
or drugs
because they are never needed
that your joints never ache
and your fingers never stiffen
(and that you never run any more
through saws)

I hope not that you are on holiday –
Heaven knows you’re not cut out for them –
but I hope you spend your days doing what you love.
I hope
the soil is fertile
the rain comes when it should
crops ripen and cattle calve
that there’s someone else to do the fencing
and service the Rover
that parts never break
or pipes leak
that there’s a dairy cow for you to milk each morning
but that those mornings are never too cold
that the wood is always ironbark
and the neighbours always trustworthy
and everyone knows what Shingle Hut is, and that you
are the man who conquered it

I hope there are no tyrekickers, now,
that buyers buy and sellers sell
that more cheques come in
than go out
that no one phones on Sundays

I hope that where you are
they let in the odd politician, or perhaps
keep a few as captives
so there’s always someone to debate with.
I hope everyone knows a thing or two
about local history, and realises that to see the way your eyes,
your bright blue eyes,
light up when you talk about it
is a privilege beyond measure

I hope you find that everything you believed in
everything you fought for
was right
I hope you see your battles won
and worth the effort
I hope,
I’m sorry, you won’t like it, but I hope,
that someone’s making a bloody big fuss
about a living legend, no longer living
but ever a legend,
and I hope you’re letting them.

I hope that bastard cancer took you because
the place you are now needed you;
needed a man to get things done
to solve problems
to carry on
to engender fervent respect in everyone he met.
I hope in the evenings now
when you come home to stretch out white feet
and shake the sawdust from your hankie
that there are no worries to trouble that noble brow
no black dog to howl inside
that mighty mind.

I hope you see us, when you want to:
see our loving grief
our fond memories
the way we shake our heads and laugh about you
see your wife’s courage
your children’s success
see your grandchildren grow strong and beautiful and perhaps
quite a bit like you
see the hole you leave in several hundred hearts

and for my part, I hope
you see me living
see me being brave and stubborn and clever
see me being capable
(though sometimes I’ll misbehave, and I hope
you’ll know when to look away)
I hope you don’t see me make mistakes
or better still
I hope you see me make a million
and understand that every single one
makes me me;
I hope you see me
get angry and foolish and tangled
see me sort things out
see me pick up and carry on
see me never give up on trying to be
better than I am.

I hope that where you are, you’ll read
every word I write,
and though you won’t understand them
you will understand how important they are to me

Papa, I hope you know that
the rain will never sound the same
now you are not beneath it
that God help every man I meet because
they’ll never measure up
that I will miss you every day and wish
you were still here
that I’ll long for you to say
Hey, Mac, and ruffle my hair
or call me your little baby when we stand
shoulder to shoulder
that I will live for the moments when my mother says
(generally in a tone of some
exasperation)
Oh you’re so like your father!

and that sometimes
I won’t be able to breathe for thinking
how lucky I was, to have a man of such principles
faith
humour
and intellect
as my father.

Go well, Papa.

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