From a Son to a Father

Yesterday was my father’s funeral. I sat for many hours trying to think of what to write. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of the words to say, I just couldn’t choose which. There are so many words…

When I finally did end up putting words on paper, it looked like a poem, and so that it became. I’d like to share this unfinished poem about my relationship with my father, Steven Cantrell.

(WordPress won’t let me format the stanzas how I would like, so here is a link to a PDF if you’d like to see it with appropriate phrasing)

*     *     *     *     *

You bought us shoes and shoes

And measured and remeasured, a whole new set

With every half-size.

And sweaters, Kaps and Ferragamo,

Bruno Magli hanging quietly glamorous, if fleeting.

You found ways to quantify love. Something like

Maple burl inlays on a full tang, three-eights-inch

Slab of damascus

Or

Eelskin and Elkskins handcrafted in Spain and tanned by a master

With a steel shank shot down the middle and

Careful ornamental leatherwork embossed in the quarter panels.

Or

Finely tailored Sicilian fabric, hand-stitched and lovingly crafted

According to your specific and precise specifications.

Equals

Just a fraction of a percent of an overt and repetitious

Reaffirmation of our bond.

You half-assed everything but love.

Perhaps this is why you were so endeared.

You liked to talk. So you did.

So we did.

It worked. I, your genetic inheritor, and consequentially,

Inheritor of character, was your counterpart.

Your partner-in-crime, your second musketeer, your

Critically star-struck sidekick.

Hey kid. Let’s go for a drive.

To where? Why? When? For how long?

From nowhere to nowhere for no reason. For two hours and right now.

In twenty minutes after I finish my practicing. And for an hour and a half and a Boston Creme donut, OK.

OK.

Hey kid, lets go four-wheeling.

You really think you are cool, huh?

Come on, it’s going to be so much fun. We’ll drive somewhere dangerous, do some donuts-

In the Subaru? You know those are passenger vehicles? The advertisements lie, they’re not actually meant for forests and trails and-

Get in the car.

Ok.

Hey kid, how are you? How was your day? You know I love you, right?

Hey dad, I’m fine, how are you? Yeah, I love you too.

I really mean it, you know, I feel like I don’t say it enough.

You know, you’re pretty bizarrely forward about that stuff, ya know?

I know, I just wanted to tell you-

I get it.

OK.

You were a ten, fifteen, twenty year old

Thirty-five, forty, and forty-five year old.

You were never your age.

Neither was I. You dropped a few years and I picked ’em up.

Along with a lot more.

Steven Cantrell is startlingly alive. I hear him, often. He’ll say,

“What, think you stupid I am?” and look at you as if you’ve got ten heads.

He drives down highways and very suddenly shouts HAWK! and points up at the sky.

“Three O’clock! Two O’clock! Four O’clock! Look, look, look! Did you see it?”

He still grumbles about going to work and defies self restraint by quoting Frog and Toad:

“Just one, very last cookie.”

All I have to do is look down and around. It is yet

So strange to see a dead man live in me and my brothers.

It’s visible. It’s even obvious. The way we look, the way we talk, what we say, how we say it…

Of course. He was our dad. Heredity is quite a real phenomenon.

But suddenly, all of those lines and phrases and quotes are no longer endemic only to my father,

But also to us.

As the oldest, I had an interesting relationship with my father.

When I was fifteen, he told me that he was very much like a cat.

“A cat, you say? How so?” I asked incredulously.

Well, when cats die, do you know what they do? They quietly say goodbye to everyone who fed them kibbles and changed their litter, and then they run off to the woods. They’ll run though meadows, frolic in green pastures, and have a really great time.

And then towards sundown, the cat will find its favorite tree next to its favorite bush, and only then will it lie down and die.”

I didn’t think much of the story- If anything, I thought it strange that he was talking about death.

But now I’d agree; my dad was very much like a cat. Like a cat saying goodbye, he bought everyone a last pair of shoes (or two),

He went fishing and shopping, bought some new knives, went for a nice long drive-

And then he ran through the meadows and frolicked in the green pastures

And had a grand old time.

He lived a lot in his years, if few.

Too few.

*     *     *     *     *

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