Monday, June 22, 2009
Facing Father’s Day without my father

Without Popsi

My earliest painful memory was an episode of panic, loss and naked fear. I dropped my father’s hand purposely and let him walk off down the street without me. It was the thing that all small children do. They test themselves and their resolve to see if they can separate from their parent and if the parent will let them. I remember making the decision to stand back and let him walk away from me. My father didn’t get half a block before I ran after him and grabbed back his hand. It truly is the child who is well-loved and feels cherished who has the hardest time separating.

My father was tall. I thought he was the tallest man in the entire world. He was the tallest man I saw for a very long time. I’ve always thought he was like a tree. He had all the arboreal attributes; the height, the warm bark color, the gentle ruggedness that oaks and others have, the protective aspect, the rootedness, the steady, solid, immovable, ethical, handsomeness and constancy of trees.
James Sheridan Clarke, my father, died on January 18, 2009. He was ninety-six years old. He basically wore out. In cleaning out his things I discovered so many, many pairs of socks. There were dozens of them in balls in the basement -- mated, matched and twisted together in clean, orderly balls. These were the many obligatory Xmas, birthday and Father’s day presents my sisters and I had given him over the years. He never asked for any particular present and we always truly wanted to get something for him. Sometimes it was a real chore trying to think of something fresh. We mostly fell back on socks.
My son died in 1989. I recall thinking when he was a small baby that he would be there when my beloved father died. We would mourn him together and go on in his line honoring him. Things happened differently. It turns out my father helped me through the crisis of my son’s death, a grandson that he idolized. How did we make it past that crushing sorrow?
When you nurse a dying parent you discover so many things. Lifting, turning, carrying a grown person who is ill is the hardest thing imaginable. You figure that because he has now become thinner and frailer that he will be easy to move. But my father seemed as heavy as lead. You fantasize that your big, strapping son will lift this man up over his head and put him down in bed gently and smooth the sheets beneath him. Truth is that’s a great big fantasy picture. The way to move a bedridden person is by making a draw sheet and roll and pull and have transfer chairs and benches and portable toilets and bedpans and plastic pads and large disposable diapers and a washer and dryer in the basement, And then beg and cajole and laugh and tease to get their flaccid, weak abdominal muscles to help out your aching back.
It is easy to turn to ancestor worship when your parents have died. No joy is joy enough without them. You invoke them often and it is to them that you appeal for the bus, the lost keys and to look after the house, the car, the friends and you.
The last time I saw my father at the residence facility where he spent his last days he waved my sister and me off. We had gotten up to go and we kept saying more and coming back to the bed touching his head, his face, his hand. He lay there - knowing we were to drive to New Jersey -- and he waved his hand to say, “Go, on. Go, on now.” He was pushing us away from him in that loving way that we send the well-loved child to kindergarten. “Go, on and on and on,” he seemed to say with the graceful gesture of his hand.

Posted at 04:45 pm by Tourmaline


Leave a Comment:


Homepage (optional)


Previous Entry Home Next Entry

New Jersey

<< June 2009 >>
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
 01 02 03 04 05 06
07 08 09 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30

Onward only! I can't turn back and I won't turn around.

Celebrating eleven years of swimming!

stroking onward and upward
swimming for the wall 2010

“Centuries later historians would ridicule as a numbers game attempts to count the millions forced to suffer the trauma of the transatlantic passage. Yet for those who witnessed the murderous raids by Arabs, Europeans, or hostile black Africans upon their communities, for those who were discarded on their march to the African coast, for those who were banned to the hold of the ships, for those whose bodies were cast overboard, for those who made it to the unknown on the other side of the ocean, every single one mattered. For every single woman, every single man represented the difference between life and death, between the "I am" and chattel, between history and the void, between the voice and silence. For every single one defined the whole.”

from Black Imagination and the Middle Passage by Maria Diedrich, Henry Louis Gates, Carl Pedersen

“As you were speaking this morning of little children, I was looking around and thinking it was most beautiful. But I have had children and yet never owned one, no one ever owned one; and of such there's millions -- who goes to teach them? You have teachers for your children but who will teach the poor slave children?
I want to know what has become of the love I ought to have for my children? I did have love for them, but what has become of it? I cannot tell you. I have had two husbands but I never possessed one of my own. I have had five children and never could take one of them up and say, 'My child' or 'My children,' unless it was when no one could see me.
I believe in Jesus, and I was forty years a slave but I did not know how dear to me was my posterity. I was so beclouded and crushed. But how good and wise is God, for if the slaves knowed what their true condition was, it would be more than the mind could bear. While the race is sold of all their rights -- what is there on God's footstool to bring them up? Has not God given to all his creatures the same rights? How could I travel and live and speak? When I had not got something to bear me up, when I've been robbed of all my affections for husband and children.
My mother said when we were sold, we must ask God to make our masters good, and I asked who He was. She told me, He sit up in the sky. When I was sold, I had a severe, hard master, and I was tied up in the barn and whipped. Oh! Till the blood run down the floor and I asked God, why don't you come and relieve me -- if I was you and you'se tied up so, I'd do it for you.”

Sojourner Truth, 1856

This text of her address was recorded by the acting secretary of the Friends of Human Progress Association of Michigan, Thomas Chandler, and published in the Anti-Slavery Bugle

Contact Me

If you want to be updated on this weblog Enter your email here:

rss feed