Saturday, August 20, 2005

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today was my dad's birthday. He would have been 72. I played a game of chess with Tony as a way of remembering him. He was an avid chess player. Dad, that is. As is Tony. I'm just a dabbler. I wish I remembered all the 'tricks' that Dad taught me when I was young. Perhaps I'd be formidable instead of merely rusty.

Amazingly, I beat Tony. I actually played a good game (I'll chalk it up to Dad watching over my shoulder). Two really good moves that Tony wasn't expecting. I hate to admit it, but I like beating him at his own game. He practically lives and breathes chess. It is his consuming passion and hobby.

I'm not a bad chess player, but I'm not a great one. I can see usually up to 3-4 moves in the future. Sometimes up to 5. But I'll often miss obvious moves and I'll never get chess notation. I just don't think that logically. That's usually the only way I beat Tony. I play a move that he would never expect with his straightforward, logical style. It's the creative trickster in me.

I miss my dad sometimes. He died when I was, what, 14 or 15? I don't feel like I really got to know him and Pam definitely never really got to, since she's 7 years younger than me. It's the little things more than the big things that I remember. So, in honor of his birthday (or dishonor, if it turns out rotten), here's a poem to dad. Again, I'm just typing this out right here, right now (Jesus Jones song, probably his only good one), so if you don't like it....tough. This is really about the only way that I write poetry, actually. If I don't finish something and leave it for never gets finished. I've got a fair amount of pieces of poems. Maybe I should just lump them all in together and see what happens. Heh. I'm just not a dedicated poet. Well, I'm not that great at it either. I'll leave it to the experts. My poetry is primarily for me.

For My Father

My dad had dandruff
thin white snowfall on stooped shoulders
grey at nineteen,
he always seemed old
but maybe that was the cancer
that ate away at his insides
for years and years until the gnawing teeth
finally broke through.

He could click his heels,
but only once,
and with a running start --
a big grin on his face that he could still do it
after all those years.
And toss a football or catch a pitch
with the joy of youth shining in his face.
I think he wanted a boy,
but I would do,
punting and kicking and sweating,
learning the rules of the game.

He always said how he loved to read
but I almost never caught him with a book.
those days were behind him
and in front,
stretched across time,
was an endless procession of flickering televised
football games (Go Niners!), Dallas, and Knot's Landing.
Hard to believe a former merchant marine
would fall prey to such stuff.

He played chess with religion
Queen's gambit, accepted, declined.
So proud when I won my first game
against an adult.
I was only five,
but triumphant, elated, stunned,
my father's daughter.

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