The old woman complained
from the other side of the fence,
her little dog yipping at her ankles.
Pulling the weeds from the garden
section of my father’s yard, I stopped
to listen, consider her story.
She had been astonished to find him
sitting there in the middle of the garden,
mindless of the weeds, on his plastic chair.
Envisioning him there ignoring her complaints
that his tree, forty years wedged into the corner
of his lot, and on his side of the fence, was
encroaching into her airspace, I laughed.
She droned on about calling the utility companies to
clip the branches away from the wires,
she knew the tree would fall diagonally onto her garage
though it hadn’t shed a branch.
The image of my father sitting there in the middle of the
garden he so loved is with me yet, long after I,
as executrix of his estate,
have called the utility company to clip the branches.
Acknowledgement: Printed in Diverse-City, the anthology of The Austin International Poetry Festival 2007
He went to work every day for forty years alternating shifts every week. He fixed things that broke and built things. He taught my sister and me many things. Skipping stones across a pond, roller skating in a rink, swimming at Hinckley Lake, how to dance a waltz, fishing, hammering a nail; that it was okay to cry when your heart was broken; he told us bedtime stories and took us with our mom and both grandmothers to Europe for six weeks in 1959. I was already grown and gone when the boy who lived behind us was injured by his mother’s car and my father scaled the four foot fence between the yards to lift Billy up off the ground, carry him into his mother’s house and while the child’s mom stood there in shock, my dad got her to call the ambulance. This man was no saint but he was my father, eldest of his siblings, family patriarch, and my son’s role model. 1919 – 1999. Till we meet again.