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On Sunday mornings
My father and I would walk to the drugstore
He would read the New York Times
and I would have cheese-and-peanut-butter crackers
and a cherry Coke, the old fashioned kind,
with two pumps of syrup from the fountain.
I wanted to read the romance comics
but was embarrassed to ask.

He always called me Alexandra
I was never “Sandy”
that inelegant middle American moniker
so ordinary for our family
that tried to be ordinary
But never really fooled anyone.

We had a Renault
before foreign cars were a thing;
because it was French I suppose.
The roof was too low for my mother’s hats.

“Let’s get lost,” I would say after cherry Coke,
and my Dad would put me in the front seat
and off we’d go into rural Pennsylvania
where the rich people and the Amish
and the farmers lived.
I suppose now that we were never really lost.

Dad called his students “Miss” and “Mr”
I couldn’t wait for when I would be at university
and the professors would call me “Miss Nelson,”
except by the time I went to university
everyone was on a first name basis.

The grad students were very rude sometimes.
They would offer to speak English because
“that might be easier for you, m. le professeur.”
They wouldn’t talk to my mother at all.

I walked in on a class my father was holding
in his apartment on campus.
My boyfriend was in the class,
but he didn’t know m. le professeur was my father.

My father didn’t come to my wedding.
He would have lost his tax write-off
for being out of the country for a year and a day.

He told me once
that I made my mother unhappy
but that’s what teenage girls do.
I think her unhappiness probably had more to do
with the fact that he slept around
and that I had a sister being raised
by the man her mother was married to.

When I got married I asked him
how to cash in the annuity he had bought for me
when I was a little girl.
It should have been worth quite a lot.
He had cashed it himself, and spent it.
I think that was the fight we had
in the south of France when we visited
on our wedding trip.

I got pregnant because I was mad at him.
I don’t remember why.
I recall my young adult life, after he left my mother
after she died
as one long fight.
I couldn’t think of anything more awful
than to have a child that I never told him about.

His wife said, don’t call us to visit.
We’ll let you know when you can come.

And then they never called.

In 30 years
I have seen him perhaps a dozen times
We stumbled from fight to fight.
He never made up with me.
I would always relent and call him.
Right to the end, when I wished him Happy Thanksgiving,
and he died in the New Year.

—-
This is a NaPoWriMo poem, but from my archives, based on today’s prompt for a poem that takes place over time. I’ll post a new one for today later (gotta write it first!)

7 thoughts on “On Sunday Mornings

  1. Such a poignant poem. I love the way it starts happy and hopeful like a child and ends up with a sort of resignation. If it’s based on truth, I would say it was very much your father’s loss. x

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