color blind and chainsmoking

Most of the time, we post words from the incarcerated women with whom we write inside Vermont’s prison. However, we also have a wonderful group of dedicated volunteers who accompany us.  [In fact, we just expanded our numbers through a recent training.] Last week we opened the circle with ‘My Father’s Neckties’ by Maxine Kumin in honor of Father’s Day. As so often happens, one line from that poem struck a close-to-home chord with one woman in the circle – our assistant that day. Here is her tender writing to the line,  “.. my color-blind chain-smoking father…”

Daddy was such a conundrum.  CEO of a successful company who arrived to board meetings in a mismatched madras suit, if allowed to dress himself.  Daddy, who always had either a cigarette, chainsaw, or beer in hand at all times when not at work.  My sad, depressed alcoholic father who used to sit on the stairs and weep, sad, so so drunk, as he listened to me playing the piano.  I was his last ditch effort at having a male heir to the throne.  Had I been a boy, I would have had his name and followed in his footsteps.  You are lucky to have been born a girl, he would slur late at night:  I would have been a bush pilot in Alaska if I could’ve.  And I kissed him on the forehead before he passed out, mumbling something about mom spending all of his hard-earned money.  He drank too much, took the boat out on the lake and slipped into those dark waters forever.  The phone rang and he was missing.  Gone; in an instant, fatherless. 

Except in my dreams, where he calls to say he is sorry he is caught on a business trip in Europe.  Or when I snowboard and see him in the crowds of skiers below the lift, or crowds in the airport.  He is always the same, perpetually 45, and handsome as ever, but it is never him.  27 years without a father, but never without love for him in my heart. 

– JP

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