Happy birthday, Dad

Hi everyone,

Ralph Kennon was born in 1909. Yesterday would have been his his 111th birthday. Ralph was Sandy’s daddy. We sat and talked about him, remembering fondly some of the things he liked to say, how hard he worked, how much he cared for his family. For much of his life he drove a delivery truck for Holsum Bakery, getting up at 3:00 a.m., taking a cab to work so his wife would have their car, and getting home late in the day. He’d catch his breath and head for the garden to spend the next hour or so working in the soil he loved so much. He was proud of what he grew. He had a right to be. It was all wonderful. I wrote about him in one of my early books of poems, THE PURCHASE OF SMALL SECRETS.

David L. Harrison

fingers lingering
over wondrous gifts,
he contemplates with satisfaction
the completed act.

“Nothing beats home-grown,”
he says.
“You won’t find corn this sweet
in any store.”

Another platter,
meaty red slabs
surprisingly heavy
on white china.
“Try these tomatoes,
tell me these aren’t
the best you ever tasted.”

Sweet onions
served with garden talk,
language of the soil,
wisdom of grandfathers.

Golden ears dripping butter,
spinach wrinkly tender,
delicately green,
cauliflower better than expected,
green beans
demanding to be bragged on . . .

“You won’t find these
in any store,” he says
to heads bobbing
over full plates.

He nods,
agreeing with himself.
I smile and think,
“Nothing beats home-grown.”

(c) 1998 David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

Ralph and Kathleen weren’t huggers and kissers. You knew they loved you because they showed you, again and again, in all sorts of ways. Their lives were an example of, “Show, don’t tell.” One day, after Sandy and I got to talking about how she had wished sometimes when she was a little girl that her daddy would tell her she was pretty or hug her or say he loved her, I was moved to write a poem for her.

David L. Harrison

He never told her,
not in so many words,
or kissed her,
or said she was pretty.

Sometimes she might have wished
for a hug,
might have wished
to hear the words

Yet she knew, always knew,
he did.
Whatever she needed he’d do —
blow the hurt off a skinned knee,
save his best tomato for her,
take her hunting and let her
carry the squirrels.

When she started school,
he picked her up
in his bread truck
and took her home
for a better meal.

when she lived three states away,
after work he’d drive all night
to see her for a single day,
bring her baby a bunny,
press small amounts into her hand
that made all the difference.

He’s been gone awhile and with him
his favorite expressions:
“You did that to yourself.”
“Boy I like ‘em.”
Gone, his boyish grin, beloved garden,
gone, those words unspoken
but few right deeds undone.

And even now she knows,
has always known,
how he loved her.

(c) 2011 David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

The gift

Hi everyone,

Our son Jeff Harrison pulled this poem from the files. I wrote it about Sandy’s father, Ralph Kennon, after he died. One day Sandy and I cleaned out her dad’s clothes closet, a sad task, but the act stirred many pleasant memories and the poem grew from them. I offer it here today because I’ve enjoyed thinking back to all those good times and want to share this glimpse into a fine man and his life.

The Gift

I fold his clothes,
recognizing some,
like old acquaintances
not met for a while
that recall stories of the man.

Checking jacket pockets,
my hand pulls out a program:
Westminster Presbyterian, 1996.
They spent most Sundays cooking,
bringing food to share,
left little time to collect
church programs.

This pocket yields a wrapper,
the candy sucked, I’m guessing,
as he crossed a parking lot
keys in hand.
The toothpick’s in here too.

This paperclip? Easy.
Bet he went to the bank that day,
took a deposit, kept the clip.
Waste not want not he’d say.

Black comb, hip pocket.
He had such beautiful hair:
thick, wavy, bright white.
She liked to comb it.
He liked that too.

A man of routine, keeper of receipts,
planner of pool shots,
pitcher of pennies;
ate out on Tuesday,
bowled on Friday,
attended high school reunions.
Organized his clothes front to back,
newest by the door transitioning
by age in a slow march toward the rear.

These pants at the back say garden.
I can see him there,
behind the garage,
tilling his beloved soil,
scooping out rows
like doodlebug holes,
dripping in seeds,
soaking with that old green hose,
intent on the joys
of working alone in the sun.

I fold his clothes,
fill boxes, make lists.
They’re just clothes, really,
without the man.
Whoever gets them
won’t get the stories.

I kept nothing when he died
but now I know
I’ll keep these stories
like books from a library
checked out to cherish again.

Life records it memories.
I fold his clothes
and give thanks.

(C) David L. Harrison, all rights reserved