I’m sure you didn’t mean it, but you scarred me for life.
When we were little children, we’d climb in the pickup with Daddy
and drive to your house. You kept the pantry full of Little Debbie snacks,
and every time we’d visit, we’d eagerly wait for that magic moment
when you’d smile and turn us loose in the cabinets, allowing us to chow down
on your stash of brownies.
When I turned ten years old, battling prepubescent pudge
and already chunkier than all the girls my age, we ventured to your house.
Unwilling to wait for your permission, I asked if I could have a brownie.
Looking me up and down disapprovingly, you sighed, shook your head,
and asked, “Do you really think you need it?”
I was crushed. My lifelong struggle with my weight had begun.
I remember how every Christmas, you’d give each of us grandkids a crisp new $5 bill.
Until the number of grandkids exceeded the number of dollars you had to spare.
I didn’t understand why the money suddenly stopped.
Didn’t you still love us?
Fast forward a few years to somewhere in my teens. Mom and Dad
needed a night out, and feeling unable or unwilling to trust me,
they left us in your care. Watching TV with you, we passed out on the couch.
Believing we were asleep and the coast was clear,
you changed the channel to a raunchy boob flick,
Pretending to doze off, I placed a pillow over my face,
turned my head to the side, and secretly watched through the crack,
thinking you were none the wiser.
Until I felt you pull the pillow from my face,
sigh and shake your head.
“If you’re gonna watch it, you may as well sit up and watch it.”
Embarrassed beyond measure once again,
I awkwardly did as you said.
You were the grown up, so if you said something, it had to be right.
Dad drove to your house to check on you, then called home in a panic.
He couldn’t wake you up. They rushed you to the hospital up the road.
The family came and went, all hours, day and night. Dad refused to leave you,
and I refused to leave his side. The next sixty some odd hours are a blur, traces of faces
and voices, trails of shared laughter and tears. The last time Dad and I went back to see you,
I didn’t know what to say. I saw my Daddy cry, which he never did,
as he held one of your hands and I held the other.
He said his “I love you” and I squeezed your hand silently,
hoping you knew I meant the words he spoke,
I simply had no strength to utter them.
A single tear fell from your eye.
That’s the last thing I remember.
I’m so sorry….
I never said I love you,
or I forgive you.
Or even thank you,
for the many things you taught me in life,
both good and bad;
for creating my father,
making him the man he is,
who in turn made me the woman I have become:
a lover, a fighter,
a stubborn headed survivor.
I love you, PaPa.
(An epistolary poem is simply a letter written to someone or something. It can be serious or humorous or both.)