My father and I were in the car last month, driving back from the diner where we go early each morning I’m home visiting my parents. (Say the word “home” to yourself – what’s the image that comes instantly into your mind?) I asked him if he thought there was anything beyond this world, and that my grandmother –his mother– had told me near the end of her life that she believed in a heaven where my grandfather, and her parents, and her sister and her friends would all be waiting for her when she got there. My father laughed and said he didn’t know about that, but that he did believe there was some kind of force in the universe, beyond his power to grasp. When I was a child my father was a force in my universe. He was a giant man with giant physical strength, the kind of man who would pour Clorox on a bleeding wound to disinfect it and avoid a doctor visit. This poem, by Robert Hayden, always comes to mind on Father’s Day. I first read it as a child and didn’t understand it. But I do now.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,