About three or four years before he died, my father started writing down his life story at my request.
He wrote in pencil and filled one wire-bound notebook completely and another partially.
He also talked more about his life during that time, and I asked more questions, about his childhood and his life in general.
I treasure the stories he left behind.
This is a poem based in part on stories he told me. It’s not completely biographical. But I have a little chair that was used similarly to the way it’s depicted in the poem.
I wrote it years ago, but I recently rewrote part of it.
By Tina Fariss Barbour
His great-grandmother held him all one winter
by the woodstove fire.
She held him all winter,
pressing his face against her chest
dressed in soft, black cotton,
clasping him gently as if he were
a newborn with a pliant head.
He was three, sick with rheumatic fever,
too fretful for his trundle bed.
She didn’t sit in a rocking chair,
but a straight, low, handmade chair.
She crossed her thin ankles,
rising only for dinner
or water from a wooden bucket.
The hours made an imprint,
Oval sink in the pine,
Smooth as if sanded for splinters.
When the fever left him,
she turned over the chair,
seat’s edge against the floor,
and he crawled, shaking
then walked again,
pushing the chair
until its edges were rounded.
Do you have a piece of furniture or other item that’s been passed down to you that holds a special meaning?