So, a year ago, I wrote this post about my Dad and his love of poetry and my ignorance and embarassment alongside it. It’s National Poetry Day again already – that year has *flown* by – so, this time I thought I’d share a poem I penned, just a few months back, on the eighth anniversary of Dad’s death. I shared it on facebook, having written it in less than 15 mins, whilst the children were having breakfast. It loses a bit of momentum towards the end as that’s when they’d finished their cereals and were getting restless and demanding my attention.
Very quickly, it was getting a lot more interest than most of the stuff I and others share on facebook and ultimately it was liked nearly 200 times, commented on almost 50 times and shared a dozen times. The most interesting response came from my sister, Rebecca, and I’ve included that below. The picture accompanying this post was shot from Blaina (where we grew up) towards the Brecon Beacons on the day dad passed away. It was taken by Beca too.
Anyway, this post isn’t intended to bring all that to the surface again. In fact, it’s to encourage you to read more poetry from Welsh writers, be it Owen Sheers, Mab Jones, the also recently passed Dannie Abse, or that other one, whatsisname, youknow, thingamijig from Laugharne. Or the myriad of others; I can’t recommend this book enough: Poetry 1900-2000.
On the eighth of the eighth, eight long years ago
My Dad died; a death, that was painful and slow
A lifetime of smoking had not served him well
He spent his last days in a morphine blurred hell
Folks always cite the good, as they rosily reminisce
He was kind, she was loving; they were this, this and this
Loss does that, I guess; makes you seek out the best
But, to be fair to the dead, do we block out the rest?
Dad was ill, sick and weak, for decades before
A body ravaged by nicotine and toxins galore
Wheezing up stairs, yellowing eyes,
hacking up phlegm; a sorry demise
He’d put on a front, “It’s nothing, I’m fine”
His hands still shaking, as he rolled the next bine
Rizla and baccy, a skilled hand would turn
Then out came the lighter; burn, baby burn
Smoke in the bathroom, smoke in the car
Copper stained fingers, lungs full of tar
New holes in a belt, tightened like a noose
Legs like twiglets, sallow flesh loose
The imperceptible creep, as the big C wormed in,
Tumors growing deep, deep under his skin
Into the hospital, blood tests and charts
“One’s growing quite fast and crushing his heart”
Moved to “palliative care”, a new term to me
“Is that good?” I asked, nurse’s eyes averted, the truth I could see
Eyes set back, skull showing, skin opaque
A great man fell, no way to keep him awake
The eighth verse of eight, the story ends here
I do miss him still, but I must make it clear
If Dad hadn’t smoked, he’d be a Grancha today
It would have been the best, but he got taken away
So, it’s not very forgiving and doesn’t pull any punches. It’s something that upset my sister and brought her to add her own comment including some alternative memories of Dad, Memories that made me bawl my eyes out with happiness.
I found this hard to read Steve. A bit raw really I guess… But to answer your question posed… Yes I guess I do block it out. I survive instead by drawing on good memories. As for me, remembering the countless times I spent as a child and teenager pleading with Dad not to smoke; and knowing that sadly the words I spoke time and time again came true: “You won’t be here when I get married” “Don’t you want to see your grandchildren grow up? …” “If you loved us, you’d stop.”…Well that’s just too hard to bear.
I guess I’m lucky, as I have never smoked, though sometimes this makes it harder to understand – ADDICTION? When not even love is enough for some 😥
So yes, I remember instead a different scene: A brave and dignified father protecting me until the very end. A loyal and passionate visionary, who never knew his worth; skinny legs yes and a robin chest; Brown skin and freckles; Thick silver hair; A cracking smile and an infectious laugh; A talented fisherman and lover of nature; An inventor; A fighter for the underdog and all good causes; A fair and principled man; A proud Blaina Boy; A poet, a thinker, a joker, a lover, but never a hater; An intricate, respected man.
How I often wish for one more day where I could sit and watch him so diligently and skilfully whipping eyes onto fishing rods, or blending bread for another match, or cooking fried egg and the best home cooked chips around; to listen one more time to a new poem he’d written (which invariably I wouldn’t understand, but I’d know it was good!), to take ANOTHER detour up the old road to look for rabbits and foxes; to pick carbon splinters from his fingertips with a needle; to watch him drink another milky cup of tea; to sing ‘a ring dumma do dumma da’ one more time in the car with him; to watch him compare just one more ‘poems and pints’ night (and chuckle inside at how his one hand always seemed to stick to his head every time he got up to speak!) The list it’s endless.
He went too soon Steve, that we know, and the hurt we must bear for the rest of our days. I like to think though, that as for me with Nana Dimmick & Grancha Dimmick, Jessie (and any other children I may have) will grow up listening fondly (over and over) to heart warming stories of her (their) Grancha Malcolm, a most kind hearted, talented and lovable man… And she will KNOW just how proud Dad would be of her (them) and how much he would love her (them).
To anyone who reads this to the end, if you yourself battle with addiction and narcotic demons of any kind, TAKE HEED. You have one life only, why risk ending it before your time? You could be hurting your loved ones (young and old) more than you could possibly ever know. Take care xx
Well done on the poem though Steve, stylistically it could have been written by the master himself! Love you xx
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that it’s Stoptober. Whilst this post certainly isn’t intended to lambaste smokers, or for that matter be a paean lauding quitters who’ve successfully managed to stay off the nicotine, you will never be younger than you are today, so what better time to quit. Be a grandparent; ask anyone you know who is one and they’ll tell you it’s the best thing in the world.