Father’s Day Poem

He was six feet and slim with Spanish brown eyes. 
The rest was Swiss and French and a few other things;
Irish descended from the doomed Spanish Armada perhaps.   
I have three pictures from their wedding in ‘63 
and his mug shot from a radio station where he DJ’d 
for a while after years of moving from job to job
in Minnesota, Arizona, and finally back to California. 

They were too young, married too soon, and the divorce 
was final in early ‘69, but thanks to his old man 
and their lawyer and the lawmakers in the state capitol 
who’d stacked the deck against single mothers, 
there was no alimony or child support:

there was welfare, food stamps, menial jobs and help 
from my grandparents. He managed a few visits after that, 
and when my mom started dating a Jew from Connecticut 
who would soon become my stepfather, my biological 
stopped coming around in early 1970. I was three.

I don’t remember any of it, but once I was old enough 
to notice he was missing, I was told he’d remarried and started 
another family, by which time he'd already disappeared.

In 1990 I decided to find him. I had his name, date of birth, 
and my grandmother furnished the rest: “A radio announcer 
and an artist, a painter, a good one, but restless. They moved 
around the country from one job to the next but eventually
came back, and after you were born, your dad got a job 
at KGBS in L.A. One day your mom went to visit him
at the station, and caught him there with another woman. 
That’s how it ended. But it was over between them anyway.
Your other grandfather saw to that. John Sr. was a bastard.”

I wasn't using that last part in my search, but it was true:
my biological's parents were verbally abusive alcoholics 
and amateur actors who hovered around Hollywood, 
occasionally landing minor parts in low-budget movies 
and t.v. shows. I've been told (though I've never confirmed)
that John Sr. had played the town drunk in a few episodes
of Gunsmoke—with no rehearsal necessary. My biological's 
mother, Teddy, had drowned in the bathtub when I was 
two months old, the result of an alcohol-related heart attack.

Not having $500 to hire a P.I., I went to the Salvation Army
which had a family locator service. For $5 they would contact 
the Social Security Dept. which in turn would send him a letter. 
He’d reply to the letter, contacts would be exchanged,
and we’d finally talk or perhaps even meet. Just like that. 

Except it didn’t happen ‘just like that.’ 

They found him and sent the letter and he didn’t reply. 
Keep trying, call him, I insisted. But there was only silence.  
Then my grandmother died on the Ides of March in 1991, 
and worse, I had to miss her funeral: Desert Storm meant
that my orders for Navy Dive School were accelerated 
months ahead of schedule. But after six weeks in Pearl Harbor 
I was back in California—and still nothing. 

Just tell me where he is! But they couldn’t. 
They were hamstrung by the Privacy Act
and had to cancel the inquiry. It was over.

During this time, my eyes had inexplicably turned 
from my biological’s deep caramel to my own olive green. 
I cast off his name which I hated anyway, and assumed 
my grandmother’s maiden name instead. Some friends 
were telling me I’d always be ‘damaged’ for lack 
of a stable father figure, whatever the hell that meant; 
and I don’t have those friends anymore.

But as I write these broken lines about you, I try to imagine
where you might be. Are you still above the dirt or below it?
I wonder if you’re speaking into a microphone, your voice
carried on a distant frequency; whose old records you’re
spinning today; who you're secretly romancing in the studio.

Are you still playing at being an artist, which, I have to 
tell you from experience, is something you can never truly be 
until you've resolved to inhabit your own skin? I wonder 

if my skin is meant to be prose, aching to shed its veneer 
of poetry. But mostly I wonder why you never answered, 
and how you’ve managed to hide yourself for 47 years.

But there's no need to dissolve this further with lazy 
and inconsiderate remarks—cheater, quitter, deadbeat dad, 
you owe me five bucks, etc.—or a lazy excuse for my own 
failures—they're all your fault—so I'll just leave it here,

with a distant, echoing reminder from the past 
that your presence was missed; that today was your day.

Dad DJ Cropped

Mom & Dad Wedding 2

Mom & Dad Wedding 1


 



 


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8 thoughts on “Father’s Day Poem

  1. Memory hole, I like it. This is heavy and good, and really sucked me in. Thanks for sharing Robin, it’s a lot. Happy Father’s Day to you. Bill

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I am — I took the leap and thought I remembered you had kids, but then thought “that would be weird if he doesn’t,” but so be it. It’s a good day. I’m lucky to have two sweet girls, Lily and Charlotte, 11 and 8. Life is good. Props up to you from Seattle to LA, I think. Bill

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well that’s cool, then you’re a dad. It’s context as much as biology perhaps. A twist on the theme of your piece, perhaps.

        Liked by 1 person

    • A bit confusing but essentially correct. it was your grandmother Teddy that died in the bathroom and John senior. YUCKKK> Told your dad what to do. Lucas is a fine name and my grandfather John Roland would be very proud of you. Love ya son an thanks so much for the pictures. by the way Whats child support? LOL

      Liked by 1 person

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