unread mysteries all of us

by Elouise

unread mysteries all of us,
tantalizing and elusive

Several days ago I read a beautiful, evocative poem on Kabir Gandhiok’s blog site, Everyday Zen. His poem, “The Man I Thought I Knew,” is about his grandfather.

The poem resonated with feelings I have about my father. The image of unread mystery stories came to mind. I have more than a few sitting on the bookshelves in my house, waiting to be read.

My father is one such mystery. I thought I knew him. Yet the more I discover about myself, the less I feel I know him–though I own him as my father and feel sad about his life.

When he was in his mid-90s, going through a long and difficult process of dying, he told me more than once that he was going to live to be 100. He was then 95. He died just months short of 97.

I asked him why this was so important to him. He looked at me, cocked his head a bit and got that familiar semi-embarrassed look on his face. His response shocked me: “I want to live to be 100 years old so my daughters have something to be proud of about me.”

He was deadly serious. I was stunned. What to say? How to act? I didn’t have a clue.

One day, when he was in the hospice facility (for the third time), some new visitors came to see him. They introduced themselves and were obviously at ease with this elderly man who sometimes made sense and sometimes didn’t.

Among other things, they asked him how old he was. He said in a clear strong voice, “I’m 100 years old!” I gulped and said nothing. He obviously believed this. I think they did, too.

A few days later a new male visitor came by with a beautiful dog for my father to meet. He asked Dad how old he was (my father always looked at least 10 years younger than his true age). This time Dad pulled himself up and proudly announced he was 103 years old!

I just chuckled to myself. As I said above, I will never plumb the depths of my father’s mystery. He, like me, is one of a kind.

Here are a few semi-poetic thoughts about my wish to know my father, in mystery book fashion.

Books wait patiently. Life does not.
Time doesn’t offer the option of going backward
To decipher real-life mysteries
I’m dying to read.

I long to discover more of my father
than I know.
An unread mystery
tantalizing and elusive.

I glimpse indirect hints
 Memories and clues dance in my rear-view mirror
maddeningly elusive
Here one moment gone the next.

Why that slant of the head?
that look in the eyes? that furrowed brow?
Was he looking at me, beyond me, away from me?
Or at himself with such intensity and shame
that he never even saw me?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 November 2015