Shadow People – When the Lineage Merges and Generations Fade

Shadow People – When the Lineage Merges and Generations Fade. It’s rather easy to look back, to be the receiver and say that “she contributed this, he offered that.” And then children emerge, and very soon you can sense it all begin to flow away, of everything beginning to pass.

When small, there’s a sense of “mine” in one’s children — “my son, my daughter.” But this is a terrible illusion.

In fact, we are theirs.

As Persian Poet Khalil Gibran said in his remarkable poem, “On Children,

“…their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.” https://poets.org/poem/children-1

But a downstream lineage requires an injection – a partner, a husband, a wife to be inserted into this stream so it can flow onward. And right there begins the obsolescence. Suddenly it’s apparent that you no longer matter quite so much, even it takes time for this to sink in,

that you’re rapidly becoming little more than an old story

someone your child might recall years from now

and, if you’ve been very fortunate,

smile.

And while this is natural, it does bring with it the opportunity to love in a completely different way. This is not the love born of biology, nor is it a love shaped from an accumulated lifetime of shared experiences.

This is a love born of learning, of tolerating (in both directions, of course,) of getting to know, of bumping against each other, of embracing, of creating new shared experiences, and ultimately, heaven willing, of standing together to support the launch of the next generation.

Lineage. True Lineage.

And Gratitude.

the downstream begins

shadow people


they begin as shadow people
two-dimensional, replaceable
appearing only for a moment 
then fading, leaving only a name 
a story to be laughed about 
over dinner 

translucent satellites
in temporary orbit around this child
you’ve birthed and fed, the one
you’ve poured your life into, saw fall 
and stand again, then mature into the rich 

three-dimensional life you see before you 
who one day brings home another 
and suddenly you sense 
that this just might be 

“the one” 

the one that takes root in the rich soil 
of your son, the one he now turns to 
before you, the one who clearly holds all 
of his new secrets, the one who’s ear hears 
all of his dreams

and though you try to be happy for him 
and for “them” 

you can already feel yourself 
beginning to thin, to lighten, to lift 
ever so slightly above the floor 

where they now stand together 

can feel yourself darkening 
and spreading up the long wall 
as the sun drops low in the sky 
stretching the day’s last shadows 

which even now are beginning to fade 
as day inevitably progresses 

into night


In case you missed it, here’s a link to the Sixth Lineage Poem – This Father’s Imperfect Love: https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/03/01/this-fathers-imperfect-love-sixth-lineage-poem/

A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets – Fourth of the Lineage Poems

A Mother’s Love, A Son’s Regret. Looking back, it’s clear that I’ve written more about my father than I ever did about my mother. Fathers and sons I suppose. But she was also the quieter, smaller one of the two. I always had the sense that she chose to hold herself close, always to defer.

September 11, 2001

We drove her from Florida to Chicago on September 11, 2001. The world had suddenly erupted in fire and all flights had been cancelled. We convinced Hertz to give us a van and we drove for three days across a silent, empty America. Her dementia was pretty bad by that point, and she repeated over and over and over, “Where am I going?” “Why do I need to go?” I didn’t have a good answer then, and I guess I don’t now.

A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets

Margaret Ruth lived in a nursing home in Chicago from 2001 until her death in 2004 from simple old age. I’ve posted before (link immediately below) about my sadness that I failed to attend properly the end of her life, allowing her to die alone in the night when it was pretty clear that it was her time.

Here’s a link to “That I Would do Betterhttps://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2020/05/10/that-i-would-do-better-poetry-poem-mother-regrets-mothersday/

Margaret Ruth, age four on the far right, 1921

I own that regret. But there’s also the regret of perhaps never having really known her. So here are two pieces that speak to missing the life of one who loved and raised me. Perhaps I could only see this as I creep into my older years myself. First, the mystery of seeing off one who once had been the entire world.

When the World is Lost Forever

childish things


we stood in a circle around the grave
some read poems while some 
chose silence. the funeral director

placed her ashes in the ground
while the redwing blackbirds sang 
among the corn. we'd always assumed

that she could fly, but then we
were only children, and eager to cling
to childish things


A Mother’s Love, a Son’s Regrets

And second, upon seeing her in the nursing home, a shadow of who she’d once been and wondering if (or perhaps knowing) we’d missed something essential over all those years.

margaret ruth

old woman, what have you done with her?
she was here when I last looked. now 
there's only you, a remnant, your mind 
approaching the capacity of experience 
cycling back upon itself, the tape skipping, catching 
rewinding as we speak. your face has been chiseled, 
deep lines cut into spotted flesh surrounding pools 
of sadness in your eyes. 
                                        
I can see into the depths 
of that water -- here rest the old ones 
in images black and brown, a diminishing succession 
of farmers’ wives standing resolute at the arms 
of sitting dead husbands. here are young brides 
with radical curls, high collars and narrow waists 
holding round-faced war-babies smiling at the camera. 
here is a mother reading soft words to soft children 
in light fading into dreams—ah Margaret Ruth 
we were for each other 
and we never really knew


The author at age one with his Mother Margaret Ruth, 1958

Here’s the link to first Lineage Poem – A Joyful Noise https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Here’s the link to the second Lineage Poem – One the Way to Heaven, Over Ohio https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/16/on-the-way-to-heaven-2nd-lineage-poem-over-ohio/

Here’s the link to the third Lineage Poem – Welcomed by the Land, Redwing Blackbirds https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/24/a-father-returns-home-welcomed-by-the-land/

For more poems speaking to mothers and motherhood, click here: https://www.poetry.com/psearch/mothers

All Poems, Text and Images are © 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

Welcomed by the Land – A Father Returns Home

The third in a series of Lineage Poems: Welcomed by the Land- A Father Returns Home. My father left Hancock County Ohio after the war and barely looked back. But when he died in 1986, there was a plot waiting for him there. A farmers’ cemetery tucked among the cornfields, rows of family names eroding into nothing up a small hill. Later, my mother would join him there, but this poem is about his journey home. And the Redwing Blackbirds in the fields, and the ribbon of asphalt leading there. About an Oldsmobile, and the memories of a boy, now a no longer young man.

Click here for the first poem in the Lineage Series: https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Click here for the second poem in the Lineage Series: https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/16/on-the-way-to-heaven-2nd-lineage-poem-over-ohio/

photo credit – the Audubon Society https://www.audubon.org/

A Father Returns Home:

redwing blackbirds

redwing blackbirds 
flash like fire in the sun, the Olds 
sailing and sailing over waves of blacktop

clicking past fenceposts, the boy 
peering from the back seat trying to count 
but it’s too fast to keep up 

such a small hole for a man that size 
tough to fit eternity into a space like that 
maybe space like time is collapsed by death

they say at the margin space and time 
are the same thing. tell me, if you could choose 
would you disappear in order to last forever? 

maybe it’s better to spread yourself out 
catch the wind and let it swirl you as ashes
straight to heaven. or maybe get an Olds

hold the jar out the window 
and go sailing over waves of blacktop
pop the cork and stream out the long dusty cloud 

that’s now filling your mirrors as you drive 
catching now on the wind, filling the sky 
until the sun itself goes black 

until the redwing blackbirds 

disappear



© 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

Back to the Earth

On the Way to Heaven, 2nd Lineage Poem: Over Ohio

the author with “Big Al” in Detroit in 1963

On the Way to Heaven, 2nd Lineage Poem: Over Ohio My father died of lung cancer in Florida in 1986. Always an angry man, he was supremely bitter about his illness, feeling like he’d been robbed of the retirement due a lifetime of work. At the time, I was buried in my own workaholic haze in Chicago, flying down on weekends to see him, then going straight back to the office when I got back North.

He was in hospice when I got word that the end was near, and was in a coma by the time I arrived. This poem tells the story of a real conversation, one I’ll obviously never forget. He was a hard man who was hard on his boys. As I enter my own older years, I resent the hardness less and less, and miss him more and more. I’d love to be able to talk with him one more time.

Here’s the link to the first Lineage Poem : A Joyful Noise – Root Music of the Heartlandhttps://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Over Ohio

my mother called on Friday
to let me know his time was near
that I needed to come now.

he was not an easy man
either to me or to my brother
or to himself. my mother, 

simple loyal and kind was spared this,
or so I hope. he’d been in a coma 
for days when I went to sit with him

through the night, his cancer-eaten body
rattling its ragged breaths
in the pale blue light of the monitors.

unable to sleep, I watched him breath in
the darkness, then just before dawn
he woke and wanted to talk.

I told him he was dying
as if he didn’t already know.
and he asked me how much money I made 

(so he’d know, he said, if I’d be safe)
then apologized for smacking us boys,
and I told him it was alright

even if it really wasn’t. 
I left when he drifted back into sleep
or wherever it was he’d been waiting,

and caught the early morning 
flight for home. he died 
while I was 30,000 feet over Ohio.

sometimes I wonder – 
at that moment, which one of us
was closest to heaven?

© 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

Big Al on the driveway in Detroit, 1963

And here’s a link to more poems about fathers from the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/collections/101752/poems-about-fathers

My Father

My father, Allen Medford Fink, died of lung cancer in 1986 at age 72. He was not an easy man. As I explained once to an adult nephew, he was our father, so we wanted to be close to him, but it could be a dangerous place to stand. He taught us to be strong. But as I grow older myself, I can see that if my brother and I are, in our own ways, more gentle, well, he must certainly have given us the seeds of this gentleness as well.

 My father was 42 years old when I was born, so he was dead by the time my sons Patrick and Nathan were born. But his presence remains. In the Buddhist cosmology, the “three times” of past, present and future and not as solid as we ordinarily take them to be. Perhaps this is how I know that if he were to meet my sons today, I am certain he would be amazed. I am certain that he would be most pleased.

My father with me, the baby, and my big brother Joe on the lawn of our small house in Detroit in 1958.

My father with me, the baby, and my big brother Joe on the lawn of our small house in Detroit in 1958.

Written April 2015 in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah —

rains

the wind

is beginning to howl

a late season snow coming in.

by morning, everything

will be blown back

into white.

 

I remember my father

staring out the kitchen window,

massive and simmering,

considering the evening sky.

 

he left the farm just before the war-

came North, but never lost the habit

of weather,

 

of watching the clouds

for signs of impending danger

of flashing from sun into thunder

with no warning.

 

we’re grateful for the snow-

it’s been dry here for too long.

 

redemption can come

through the blessings of rain

of a rain that falls hard all day

of a rain that might protect us

 

from the lightning

from rage without warning

from the flames

t

hat can race up from the valley

and sweep us all away

incinerating everything

 

 

 

©jafink/oldbones.newsnow.com