Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A poem: What happens to our dreams?

I’m posting something different today: a poem that I wrote many years ago about my father.
He died in 1997 at age 76. A few years prior to that, I began to talk with him about his childhood and his life and encouraged him to write down his stories. He wrote down many of the stories of his life in ruled notebooks.
This poem was a yearning to understand the dreams that my father had and how they were changed by his life circumstances.
Tomorrow, I will post about how my own dreams were changed by obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.

On my father being 72

I watched my father walk through the cows.
Black Angus cows. They snorted, shifted, chewed.
He didn’t run when they knocked against him.
He never ran from them.

He climbed atop the dull red tractor,
settled into the old pillow tied to the metal seat.
He pulled away from the herd, headed to the stable,
the wagon following, me on the wagon. I was 8.
I dragged a tobacco stick in the dust below.

Last week I saw a man at the park
moving slower than the power walkers pumping by.
He wore brown slacks, was bent over like he needed a cane,
like he had left it on the bleachers to try just one lap.
I glanced up as I jogged by:
white hair, not gray,
the white of my father’s hair, his father’s.

If I listened to your quiet talk, would I hear your dreams?

The war, I used to think, did something to my father’s dreams,
Something that marred the surface
of his war stories of New Guinea, Peleliu, Japan.
As a child, I’d ask, did it hurt when you were shot?
Now, I’d ask, where did it hurt?
Was it deep inside to the little boy
who never missed church choir practice,
who whirled round and round in a wooden toy car,
who worked the fields instead of going to school?
The young soldier who dreamed his medic’s bag
was a doctor’s bag full of the right medicine,
enough suture for the ripped battlefields?
I wonder what dreams he had that night underneath the Jeep,
huddled with his friend, his lifelong friend
who wrapped his arm again and again with narrow bandages.

He could have gone to college, to medical school,
walked the halls of the hospitals.

But he came back to the tobacco fields,
to the sticks and twine and stained hands,
to pastures with cows.
He walked down the meadow strip into the corn,
into shady tunnels.

  Have you ever wondered what happened to the dreams of a parent or someone else in your life?


  1. That was truly beautiful Tina, it moved me. I have to say this though, because of the way I'm feeling at the moment, I am very down, and I don't quite understand your question, I can't think straight, do you mean what happened or what happens? Could you please help me out on this and then I can reply. Thanks my friend. Susan :)

    1. Susan, I'm sorry I wasn't clear about what I meant. I'm thinking about the dreams that people have that got changed by life circumstances. For example, my father decided to come home to the farm after his time in service instead of pursuing more education. I wondered if he ever regretted that, or if that was the way he wanted it to be.

  2. """If I listened to your quiet talk, would I hear your dreams"""

    Love love love this, Tina.

    Thank You. x

  3. Beautiful poem, Tina!

    Remember the doctor in "Field of Dreams?" His life didn't turn out the way he'd planned, and yet he ended up feeling deeply satisfied with the life he ended up with. I try to remember that when I'm feeling discouraged.

    My late mother-in-law was a fine artist who didn't "succeed" in the traditional sense. This caused her a great deal of pain and depression -- and yet she always found a way to keep creating. How do I know this? Because, lucky for us, she wrote it all down. One of the great joys of my life was to take the best of her writings and organize them into a book. She didn't live to see it win an award, but her husband did. It reminded me that our stories are not always over at the time of death, either. Your father's unfulfilled dreams have influenced you and your approach to life. Who knows where that will lead?

    1. Nadine, thank you for your beautiful comment! I do remember the doctor in "Field of Dreams"--his dreams changed, but he was happy and content.

      That is a wonderful thing you did for your mother-in-law. I want to take my father's writings and transcribe all of them. I've done some, but there's a lot more to go through.

  4. Beautiful poem, Tina. It really touched me as I often think of dreams my father had that never came true. Then again,our lives rarely follow the path we imagine for ourselves....and new dreams can arise from the twists and turns we take.

    1. Janet, thank you. I agree that our lives take twists and turns, and sometimes that turns out the best.

  5. Such a beautiful poem Tina!

    My grandmother was 7 months pregnant with my father when they got married, a huge scandal at the time. They blamed my father for this all his life and send him out to work age 13, instead of allowing him to study like his siblings. My grandparents paid for their study with my father's earnings, and afterwards the same siblings looked down on him because my father never got a degree!
    He became a very skilled paviour though, but never really felt he was good enough. This is still the case, right to this day, even though his parents are long dead.
    Such a pity as I'm so proud of my father and of what he achieved and how he turned out as a human being. But I guess he would have liked to have studied too.

    1. Klaaske, how sad for your father that he was treated that way. How wonderful that you are proud of him. There are so many ways to be successful in life, and we need to honor them.

  6. Wow what a beautiful poem! You are a woman of many talents.

  7. I already knew you were a fabulous writer, but my goodness, girl. You ROCK! This is so beautiful. Have you considered publishing it?

    1. Grace, thank you! Years ago I sent some poems out to seek publication, and I had one published in a very small journal. But I haven't done anything like that for years.

  8. I loved reading this. Beautifully written and intruiging.

  9. This is beautiful, Tina. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    I think dreams must change, in order to adapt to what we're presented with in life. I would not be on the path of pursuing a degree in Psych if I had not experienced a traumatic event, if I had not been around folks in that field that have inspired me.

    My parents though, I do wonder how their dreams have changed throughout their lives - ones they've let go, others they've succeeded in, etc. Good question - it has got me thinking.

    1. My dreams have certainly changed, too, and sometimes that has been a very good thing. I'm glad you are pursuing studies that you enjoy so much--you will be such a help to others!

  10. Beautiful poem Tina. It is so hard to look back and wonder should I have pursued this or that because one different choice may have given me a way different life. All in all, I feel pretty content with my choices. To be specific, I never felt I could pursue the career I would have liked because I married my husband and we moved every 2-3 years. But the other side to that is that I LOVED traveling and I can't imagine not living in the places I have. I would not give up my husband and children for sure so those choices were good.
    I know my dad always wanted to be a postman. His father pressured him to be an electrician and he did it to please his dad. I think that is sad.

    1. Krystal Lynn, I wouldn't give up what I have now for past dreams, either.

      My father was a rural letter carrier for the post office for a while. He really enjoyed it.

  11. I often wonder what happened to my parents childhood dreams. What were they? I should ask sometime! Terrfic, I usually can't comprehend poetry, but this is excellent. I think our dreams and ambitions change so much as time passes, we forget what they truely where!

    1. Thank you! You make a good point--we forget what our dreams were sometimes because of the big changes we go through.

  12. This is a beautiful poem. I too wonder of the dreams of my grandparents, parents, etc. Sometimes we have to modify the dreams just to get through life. I don't know this for certain, but maybe, just maybe the new roads or modifications of the dreams we once had is where we were meant to be in the end. Once again, beautiful and thanks for sharing this!

    1. Yaya, Thank you! I like your idea that the new roads or modifications might actually be the end that was meant to be. Life is messy, and so many things don't end up as planned, but they end up OK.

  13. Oh Tina. this is such a beautiful poem. It made me cry. What a loving and lovely tribute to your father.

  14. Very beautiful, Tina. It made me think of my own father.


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