Sestina for Dad

Today is your birthday–
or was. I don’t know
what it is now that you
are dead–just a shadow
to remind us that last year
we gave you tickets

to a KU game–tickets
for you and Matt to celebrate the day;
a festive end to a pretty good year.
We didn’t know
how near to the valley of the shadow
we were. “Happy birthday to you!”

Without a hint of foreboding we sang: “Happy birthday to you!”
and were proud of the tickets
we presented. Oblivious to the shadows
gathering. I was the sick one that day,
and I let everyone know
how unfair it was that I had to start the new year

with the stomach flu–give up my once-a-year
romantic getaway reservations to you
and Mom. “Who knows,”
I moaned, “when I will ever get away.” So KU tickets
and a little vacation–not a bad birthday.
Please know that the shadow

of resentment I felt then–that shadow
of disappointment at missing a yearly
pleasure–burst into light and tears the day
I realized that you
and Matt would not use any tickets,
you and Mom would not visit any bed and breakfasts together again. I know

this realization was as cliche as it was heartbreaking. I know
this day–your birthday–will always be shadow:
like Christmas, anniversaries, KU basketball tickets,
like every New Year–
just three days from the day you
were born; just seventy days from the day

you–well, you know–
from the day you quit caring about any tickets,
from the day that began these years of glorious shadow.


4 thoughts on “Sestina for Dad

  1. Oh, Joanna! This was wonderful! Thank you for sharing it. My mother died suddenly almost 20 yrs. ago. (I was in the hosp. w/ my 3rd child, 2nd daughter’s birth.) I am sorry for your loss. Nobody ever again loves you as much as your mother (or/and father, too I suppose)…. Blessings to you in the New Year. I know how hard it is to adjust to a parent’s absence and void.

    • Thanks, Dawn. What a mix of emotions that must have been for you in the midst of birth and death all at once. I suppose we all are much of the time–but not usually so obvious. Blessings to you.

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