Father’s Day Redux: a Poem (of sorts)

Several have asked to see it again, and googlers are finding their way here at Fathers Day, so I’ll post the body of this Fragments nugget one more time. After all, last time I checked, I’m still a father!


So here we are, the parental empty-nesters, sandwiched once more on the late spring calendar between Special Days for mothers and fathers. Our adult offspring (the term we substitute in recent years for the word “children” when describing our small but matured brood) live far away and it’s easy to misplace even the memory of the satisfaction and anguish of having actively, presently, physically been someone’s parent so long ago and far away.

Now I will readily confess that I have a curmudgeonly and cynical opinion of these parental “holidays” as being manufactured for the bottom line of the likes of Hallmark Cards and Russell Stover Candies.

But I will also admit that at times, to be remembered in the small way of a special phone call, a hand-written letter or a cross-country trip on these designated days of appreciation are, well, genuinely appreciated.

Saved, Remembered, Found: a father’s day poem-a toast (and cleverly veiled roast) for Father’s Day 2004, received from our son, Nathan, then a single scholar just moved to British Columbia, and today married and moving into their first owned home in Columbia, Missouri-still far too far away.

I thought I would share Nate’s poem with you this Father’s Day in the hopes that it might help you to recall: that seeming crisis in your relationship with your dad that looking back was so silly you can laugh about it now; the way you respected him but never got around to telling him because at the time, he rightfully thwarted your idiot dreams; the lessons he taught you by example, good and bad; and the pride you know he has when he hears from you, a grown or growing young man or woman who occasionally takes the time to say “thanks, dad.”

Do consider using the short phrases of this “poem” as a model, and give a single page a single hour of your time, a gift to give your dad this year, while there’s time. Chances are, he’ll never forget it.

A Father’s Day Poem For Dad, 2004

For all the times you made me hold that damned ladder;For all the times you said, “if you throw that tennis racquet again, we’re going home,” and I threw the tennis racquet again, and we went home;

For that time you wanted to go hiking in the Smokies, and I wanted to go to Amy Harris’s pool party, and I pitched such a fit halfway to the Smokies that you turned the car around and drove us home at breakneck speeds, only to give in half an hour later after I pitched another fit, and we went to the Smokies, and had a nice time;

For beating me every time at every sport and every game, many years after I was sure I was better than you;

For the thirty-seven times you told me the name of the same green-metallic beetle, while each time I was thinking about some girl or some song I’d like to write, or some song I’d like to write about some girl, only half an hour later to see a green metallic beetle, and wonder what kind it was;

For the times you crushed between your fingers something sweet-smelling, or sharp-smelling, or minty-smelling, or putrid, and shoved it toward my nose, saying, “Nature snort;”

For all the arguments we’ve had about religion, and all the agreements we’ve had about politics;

For all the times we’ve called each other “smart-ass,” audibly or otherwise;

For every time you should’ve made fun of me for the way I split wood, and the vast majority of times that you did;

For all those really stupid ideas I’ve had, which you vehemently opposed, until you knew I’d go through with them anyway, at which point you supported me;

For all those trips I’ve taken, and you’ve secretly worried about, even while you tried to project all your concerns for me onto “my mother;”

For teaching me to light the water heater-and to rake with full, efficient strokes, and curse at the weed-whacker, and spread the peanut-butter clean out to the crust;

For all the creative ways you punished me, with just enough consequence to sting, and just enough humor to tell stories about later;

For finding your craft, your voice, and a fulfilling sense of place–for living my aspiration and giving me a sense of belonging, even as odd as I feel to live vicariously through my father;

For all those times, all those lessons, all your friendship and love, this father’s day I bought you an ice-cold bottle of beer,

Which I’m drinking now as I write you this poem,

All the while thinking, man, he would’ve enjoyed this.

Thanks, Dad. Love you. I’ll spot you that beer sometime. — Nate


Nathan (now 29) and Holli (age withheld but 5 yrs older)

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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