For today’s NaPo prompt, I was supposed to think about (as in remember) a small habit I picked up from one of my parents. Then, I was to write, first about remembering my parent engaged in that behavior before writing about me doing the same thing.
I can do none of that. I recall no small habits of Mom or Dad, much less identify any I copied.
This prompt is one of several generative writing prompts created by Juan Martinez for his college-age creative writing students at Northwestern University. I’ve not been a college student for many years and probably completed my undergraduate degree before Professor Martinez was born.
But I wanted to write a poem from this prompt. Since Martinez used the term generative, I felt comfortable using his idea as the genesis for one applicable to my life by adjusting the parental habit concept to my father. Several of my father’s customs so irritated me that I intentionally do the opposite, do not do them, or if I ever did, I stopped copying them many years ago. This is not phyco-babble. I loved my Dad (sort of) but I despised much of what he did.
That way, I can remember and write about him while also writing about me not engaging in the same behavior, a bit of a reverse of the NaPo prompt. The original theme of a poem about my parent’s habits remains.
I loved him and I think
he loved me, but I can’t recall
him saying it. I’m freer with
I love you’s, hugs, and kisses. I don’t think
Mom considered him a good man.
He had only apple butter and cold
processed meat sandwiches as a kid.
I learned about apple butter at Jimmy’s house.
It was not allowed in ours.
Except for some dining-out places,
I hate for people to wait on or to serve me,
he seemed to expect it,
especially from my Mom.
His teeth spent nights in a glass with water,
I am meticulous about dental hygiene.
He smoked himself to death. I quit long ago.
He had religion. I gave that up too.
He often laid on the couch. I never do.
Our bathroom sink was always disgusting
because of his mess. I clean mine several times
each day and never leave it wet. I don’t think
I’m anal, but I pick up my shit and fix cockeyed things.
I learned how to do things and to have the right tools
before I start. He learned as he worked,
never with the right tool for the job.
I watched his frustration and learned
what not to do.
He didn’t drive. I have a motorcycle.
He smelled too much of cologne,
like a French whore house to me.
I never use scented products to smell attractive.
I believe exercise is good medicine,
he didn’t think so. I fight with my temper,
he often lost his without guilt. I tried to keep away
from him and that violent loss of control.
His ethnic epithets seemed normal Archie
Bunker stuff, I avoid them because of him,
not due to today’s PC environment. It was called
All In the Family, if you don’t know.
It seems to me that my Dad’s good influence
on me was letting me see, hear, and smell
that meat-and-potatoes Irishman who
I believe, did the best he could, and I knew
all along Mom wanted better.
Look both ways at their foibles and yours.
Nobody’s perfect, of course,
but mind the gaps to be the best you can.