Distances

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words banter, duty, element. Inspired by memories of my Papaw (brought on by my parents’ recent visit) and Neil Armstrong’s passing.

Distances

We laughed at him, shuffling
his feet down the hall, squinting
age-dimmed eyes as if surprised
by the tenacity of life.
His old-timer pace
just would not do
for children of the Space Age,
living in a world made fast
by spark and fuel. He never
walked too far: from bed
to john, to corduroy reclining
chair where he would sit
like a duty fulfilled,
looking at his mangled hands
and marveling at the work
they had once accomplished.
In fine weather he would ride
with us to Lake Tohopekaliga,
choosing the nearest bench
as an observatory. The expanse
of elements and circling flight
of bantering gulls seemed
to satisfy a need for distances—
for though we couldn’t imagine
it he hadn’t always been limited.
We didn’t see him as a boy, striding
tall in the dark furrow,
guiding the team with
gee and haw in Uncle Lanta’s
field; or later, fearful but
resolute, heading to the Reisden’s
to ask Bessie to the dance. Nor
could our little minds
calculate what it took to walk
deep into the earth for
forty years, finding coal
and breathing the dust that
finally laid him down.
We saw only a slow old
man, so earth-rooted
that he was sure the lunar
landing was a stunt;
but in the sum
of his small steps I
reckon he traveled
broad distances, each step

one giant leap.

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16 thoughts on “Distances

  1. Good Heavens Nico! With certain specific exceptions you could have been writing about my father, or, more and more these days, about me.
    This poem touched me deeply, and not only from the beautiful writing.

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  2. Earth rooted is so much more than moon dust..he stayed strong with you..that's all that matters..there is so much here..but how soon we catch up that distance of age..start shuffling ourselves..realise that the moon still isn't as far away or as exciting as it promised..much can be achieved at home..with bare hands..jae

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  3. How I wish that my children and grandchildren will look on my past with such awe and respect even though their minds have been warped by technological advancement. This a wonderful tribute you have written.

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  4. That's great Jeff. My heart was made happy remembering my grandpa as all of us children poked fun behind his recliner. It was hard to imagine him as anything other than the bumbling old man that would only argue with my grandma when she was out of ears reach.

    Curt

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  5. Sheilagh, Thank you. Interestingly, this didn't start out to be a serious tribute. I started with a more comic idea (Papaw swore that “Ain't no man ever set foot on no moon”), but my feelings of affection for him kind of ruled the day.

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  6. Paige, Thank you for your kindness. I only wish I had been wise enough to slow down and spend more time with Papaw–a simple man, but he had experienced an interesting life.

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  7. Well, you're always welcome to stop in for a read. We do need to get together–there are fish to catch and beers to drink, and now my schedule might even allow me to do so! I'll try to work something out on my end soon.

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