Yesterday my dad passed away. He was 88 years old. I sat there listening to my half-brother cry on the other end of the line as he delivered the news, stunned and numb for what felt like an eternity. Then I burst into tears.
My dad had the most fascinating, full life anyone could imagine, from growing up in Trinidad and a youthful sojourn in the merchant marines, working as a psychiatric nurse and a double decker bus driver in Scotland, and then emigrating to the U.S. even though he was barred entry here for years due to his Chinese heritage. He worked as a self-employed mechanic, raised two families, and loved his children fiercely. He was generous, loved going to the horse races (where I spent many a happy summer in the infield), was an excellent cook, and entertained us with Charlie-isms like “throosers” for trousers, “DOHg” for dog, and the very British “alumEEnium.” To this day I don’t know how much these quirks of speech were a result of 3 continents’ worth of accents, or how much they were his own little idiosyncrasies. We loved it either way. Most summers he spent a little time “up north” mining for gold with friends, he was a great bowler and miniature golfer, and he left this world on his own terms – independent, living on his own, and old enough see his oldest grandchild start high school, just like he wanted.
I wrote this poem a few years ago for him, when he was having one of his many health scares. I didn’t share it with him at the time, though. He was so very afraid of dying, and I thought the allusions to it in my poem would be troubling for him as he convalesced. I finally gave him a framed copy of it for Father’s Day this year, and I think it may have been his favorite gift I ever gave him. To say he loved it would be an understatement — he held it and read it over and over, mouthing the words and cradling the frame gently in his arthritic hands. He marveled that I had written it “all on my own,” and said I had “brought a tear to his eye,” — but I already knew. I could see the tears shining there. He told me almost shyly that he wanted to try to memorize it, even though his memory had gotten so much worse over the years. I was honored and so, so humbled. That was our last visit, and I am so grateful I was able to convey to him just how loved he was before he died.
the golden autumn
of this world
into a dark/light place
made of lengthening shadows
and warm tender moments alike.
poignant relief marks the passing
of each second and season,
pearls on a string slipping away
roughened by time,
all the more cherished
for that which has gnarled them.
though a shadow passes over your eyes
at the thought
of things unknown.
in the end,
you are loved.
— Charla M. DelaCuadra
I love you, Daddy, and I miss you already. I’ll always be grateful for your love. I know you were proud of me. I share your name, and you’ll always be in my heart. Thank you — for everything.