Remember last month I wrote about a bridge my three-year-old self almost met my untimely end on? (See: Falling Off a Bridge Can Be Harmful to Your Health … and Other Lessons) I talked about how I felt my dad never really tried to connect with me. This is the rest of that story.
But first, a little note about fire towers. I’ve realized that some of you may not know what these are.
Way back in eras past, before cellphones–I know right?! There was a time before cellphones??–and none of those other satellites that could count how many Pringles were in the can you just ate . . . there were these towers in the wilderness, poking up above the treetops, where forest rangers would live and watch for wisps of smoke.
Sadly the satellites came along and put Smokey Bear out of a job, but many of the towers still remain . . . and you can rent them, to camp out in . . . way up there!! Let me tell you: it’s awesome.
Here’s a little poem about something that happened in one of those towers somewhere in the wilderness of southern Oregon. It goes something like this . . .
I Never Cried
Seventy feet above mossy ground
a retired fire tower continues to watch
evergreen spires stretching to the horizon.
Ten feet for each year since my father
became an etched granite stone, as silent
as I remembered the man who rested beneath.
Camping in that glass box lightly swaying,
my companion paints a silver lining:
her father hunting for unfamiliar gentleness.
The words catch me off balance. I stumble
and fall from my safe perch, a waterfall
of memories, crashing to a distant ground.
My father snatching me from drowning.
My father steadying my first bicycle,
or unrolling a huge roll of plastic that became
A long soapy slide on a hot summer day.
My father’s boss offering me my first real job.
My father’s impish shit-eating grin.
Decades of blame, perceived neglect, eroding
in a river of memories, my only words:
“I never cried at my father’s funeral.”
Picturing my father, barely sixteen, driven
by puberty and his first crush, unaware
a family would be thrust upon him so young.
In a secluded tower, a country and a lifetime away,
darkness grows so complete that stars blaze
white in spaces I once thought empty.
And I knew he’d done his best.