Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Father's Son

I'm wrestling with ghosts at the moment...the voice of my Dad, actually constantly in my head, reminding me that I have a single, overriding obligation: to support my family. That there is a sacred trust that comes with marriage and kids, and failure is NOT an option. It's a Celtic thing. I've never filed for unemployment benefits before and it feels like...failure.

My wife and I have four grown children, and like most parents I have met, I feel certain that they never listened to a single word of advice we uttered. Children seem bent on making their own mistakes and learning everything the hard way. Yet, even at 59 years and growing, I can still hear the voices of my Dad and my Mom, and I take some hope in that.

My father (the dedicated fisherman pictured here) was a strong and stern man. He was a bit scary until you got to know him. Even his closest friends told me that they were initially put off by his gruff facade. There was a reason his grandchildren called him "Grumpy" instead of Grandpa. He was the poster boy for stoicism and could best be described as a Celtic Stump. A more stubborn man never existed. (Although, my wife has put me up for candidacy.) The reflection below describes my most recent encounters with the ghost of a man I loved and respected.


My Father's Son

I always thought my thoughts were mine alone,
That none intruded, save I gave them pass;
The space inside my head was mine to own -
Lest ideas unwanted might trespass.
Yet when I journey inward, pondering
Travails and joys that populate my days,
I find there is no path, to sundering
My journey from my father's Celtic ways.

At ev'ry twist and turn I hear his voice,
Declaiming my responsibilities;
Reminding me I simply have no choice,
Except to shoulder my sacred duties.

He told me that a man is just a man,
No better than another on the Earth,
Though some try to convince you, if they can,
That they are better, by station or birth.
He said if I accept that, I am lost -
And therefore I should be prepared to fight,
To stand up for my own, at any cost -
For God alone could claim my soul, by right.

He told me that, one day I'd share my soul:
A joining that would meld two souls as one,
A nucleus from which a union whole,
A family, my own, would be begun.
Though patriarch and father I would be,
Respect and love are earned, not my birthright;
And so, it is incumbent upon me,
To stand up for my own...and win each fight.
Yet, should I lose a battle — one or two,
Through treachery or chance, I fail to win -
To not get up and find something to do —
To not find work — there is no greater sin.

Though he has passed, his strident thoughts remain,
To haunt my dreams and touch each waking hour.
My father's song is gone, yet its refrain
Seems never to decrease in strength and power;
Thus forcing me to make the only choice:
To find a way this battle can be won,
And in that battle find my own strong voice.
And so, I seems, I am my father's son.

Mick McKellar
February 2009

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