Here we are, at the end of National Poetry month and this is my last poem in the series about my father. I wasn’t quite sure what would happen to me during this month but I knew that I would be changed by the experience because that’s what writing does, it changes you. What I was hoping for was to find a way to finally heal, after all these years, and let go of any of the anger and frustration I have had at the man who was my father only in the biological sense. I’m tired of carrying all that hurt around. It’s a heavy load and it slows me down. I’ve tried to let go of it all before and never had much luck but this time, things were different. I could tell that right from the start.
These have all been first draft poems written late at night after I’ve forced myself to sit still and quietly revisit those old hurts. I don’t have a lot of memories so as the month went on, it got a little more difficult to mine the past for new poems but somehow, every night, something bubbled up that needed remembering so it could be put to rest. I didn’t revise the poems or sit on them overnight so often, in the morning, there were mistakes in grammar, bad line breaks, even a few facts I got wrong – all stuff that needed fixing. Normally the idea that I’ve been posting poems with mistakes in them would make me cringe but this time, I was okay with it because in the writing of every poem I’ve been feeling myself heal. There’s a scar, there always will be, but I no longer feel defined by the fact that I grew up without a father. I am who I am because of the things I’ve done in my life, the choices I’ve made, and while I am far from perfect, I’m pretty happy with how I turned out.
For all of you who read and posted comments and sent me emails offering support on this emotional journey, I thank you. I could feel you all holding me up when I was trying so hard not to fall apart. And for those of you who read but didn’t comment, I could feel you there too. Really.
So here’s my final poem of the series with an afterward worthy of an after-school special movie.
I grew up a lonely, only child in a
neighborhood of other people’s grandparents.
Imaginary friends kept me company in my attic bedroom
except for those few weeks during summer vacation
when grandkids came to visit
up and down the street.
What I wanted as much
or maybe even more than a father
was a sense of family,
of feeling like I belonged,
a chance to find myself
in the faces of my family.
My mom and I
were the only Webbs I ever knew
and I felt the absence of that family
nearly every day.
It didn’t seem to matter to me
if they were good or bad
was that they were someplace
that I wasn’t and for the longest time
I translated that in my mind
to mean that I was less than everyone else.
I learned to tell stories by watching television
and rewriting the endings of my favorite shows
when I was supposed to be asleep.
I’d hide under the covers
and rearrange the scenes in my head
so the star of the show had to search for someone,
a missing daughter
a missing sister
a missing someone,
turned out to be me.
All I ever wanted
was to write a happy ending
to my family history.
I think I’ve finally figured out
that family stories are different for everyone
and it’s up to you to do the research
to fill in the blanks
of what you don’t know
and then rewrite your story
so it all comes out
just the way you want it to.
Who I am
is not because of him
or in spite of him.
Who I am
is because of me
because of all I have experienced
because of all I have done (and not done)
because of the choices I have made
to live the life I am living.
Who I am
just who I am
supposed to be.
@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
All Rights Reserved