Belated Parent


I’ve never been afraid of dying.

It’s true.  I have friends who worry

about their deaths a lot, friends

who take an array of supplements

so they can live as long as possible,

the kind of people who inwardly rage

that they were born too soon

before we learned how to live forever.

I’ve never really understood that.


I’ve always wanted to live

as if I could be hit by a bus tomorrow,

wanted to live fully, saying everything

that needed to be said,

doing what needed to be done.

People say to me, often,

“I don’t know how you do so much!”

They don’t understand —

I’m trying to pack it all in.


But now I have a problem.

My father is seventy,

works full-time, takes long walks,

watches what he eats — in some ways

looks better now than he did

a decade ago.  I may have him

for a long time yet, but I can also see

the day is coming, like the day

when I was small.  The letter came

across the wide ocean,

on onionskin paper, thin and blue,

telling him his father was dead.

The only day I saw him weep.


And now, I have a daughter, a son;

I want to give them everything.


I had my children late in life,

and I may not be here to meet

their children, should they have them.

That is a regret.


But my fear, my terror, is that

I will leave too soon.  A stroke,

a heart attack, a cancer will descend

and carry me off while they are still

too small to understand.  I have friends

who lost a parent young.  They went on,

built good lives, full of love, but I’m not sure

they ever recovered completely.

And even if I survive

another seventeen years,

until my son is twenty-one,

until they are both, technically, adults —

I do not know if there will be

enough time to tell them

everything.  Everything I want

to say.  This is what I want to say.


I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry, my dears.

For you – for you, I would have lived