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"Papa and Me"

Memoirs of Nan Nichols Crussell, Editor
and Webmaster



The Gorge

Peace -- of the quiet and stillness of space --
Rests on the hills; and the fading day dies
And the dusk comes up from the gorge and lies
Like a mist, purple; and the river's face
Is green. Peace -- It spreads with infinite grace,
Rising on the night as a bird that flies
Up out of the dead day with muted cries
To spread its velvet wings on this wild place.

On the high crags above the world they stand,
One with the moon and with these pale green streams
That rell their ageless way on wheels of sand --
Alone, and yet as one with all the dreams
That life has drawn from out the moon's white beams --
Silent we stand, your hand warm in my hand.

-- E. E. Nichols (my Papa, written to my Mom)


 

Goodbye, Papa

Are you scared Papa? Are you afraid?
Is dying like you thought it'd be?
For years you spoke of it in jest
Now there are tears I see.

You told me you would welcome death
When your goals in life were seen.
But they didn't end the way you planned
Your one goal left is me.

You wanted me to be like you
To carry out your dreams.
Your pride in me was all it took
To overcome my fears.

"Always do what you fear most,"
You always used to say.
"Finish what you start, my child
and life will go your way."

I believed you, Papa, I'd swallow hard
And apologize in a fight.
Even if it wasn't my fault
I'd strive to make wrongs right.

I didn't always like it, sure
Taking it on the chin.
But that's what you are doing now
As your best friends do you in.

They're hurting you, Papa. I feel it.
They're taking away your life.
The people you always believed in
Are stripping you of your pride.

He's old they say, he's done his job
And it's time he moved along.
Out with the old and in with the new
His usefulness is gone.

You're old Papa, you've been around
For seventy years or so.
But the thoughts in your head and the patience you have
Leave all those younger below.

They don't know how you feel inside
How your job is your life.
They think it strange with all your charm
Why you don't take a wife.

You've had your wife, not one but three
And four offspring to boot.
You lost a son. You lost a wife.
Why you'd go it again is moot.

You have me, you say, that's all you need
To bring you home at night.
You had my mom and you threw her away
Yet I've been the tie that binds.

She loves you and you love her
Far be it for you to admit.
That through the years and through the tears
You were meant for each other and knew it.

She's the strong one now, Papa.
She believes you're going to live.
She spoon feeds you and makes your bed
For you her life she'd give.

I'm scared, Papa, to see you like this.
To see you scared as well.
The tables are turned, the strong element
In my life has lost his spell.

I needed you to make me strong
To hold me when I'd cry.
Hold on tight to you, you'd say
And you'd see me through the nights.

It got me through the years, all right
Your strength was always there.
Now where is mine when you need me?
Do you think that I don't care?

You always said you feared death not,
That if I should hold your hand
When the time came for you to go
You'd take it like a man.

Well, you're going Papa, you're slipping fast
You're not much but skin and bones.
Yet night after night you lie in the dark
And are still there in the morn.

What keeps you holding on so tight?
Your body has lost its power.
You can no longer walk and no longer talk
Yet you live on hour by hour.

I'm afraid, Papa, I cannot think
Of things to do or say
To make you know, to let you feel
That I have now not run away.

I hear you breathe and cough and choke
As your body rejects the food.
I hear you moan when the night is still
Of pained limbs long grown cold.

You're smaller than I, you've lost so much weight
Your cheeks are hollow and wan.
Your head doesn't turn, your mouth doesn't speak
Yet your thoughts go on and on.

I avoid the room in which you lie
I shudder to even walk past.
The looks you give and the tears you cry
Have taken my courage at last.

I always knew this would come someday
You spoke of it constantly.
"I'll stick it out, I'll be a sport
That's the decent way to be."

You want me to hold your hand, I know.
That's what you said to do.
To be at your side as you'd been for your child
To give your strength back to you.

Are you scared Papa, I'm afraid
Of what I do not know.
I'm lying in bed and when I wake up
I know it'll all be over.

"I love you" was the last thing I said.
"I worship you," you replied.
But the way I cower and the tears in your eyes
Make me think you think I lied.

Mom says it was beautiful
The way you heaved your last sigh.
When the struggle was over ere the dawn had broken
Your pain had at last gone by.

I speak of you to all my friends
What a part of me you stiII are.
How the strength to do what I have to do
Comes from faith with no holds barred.

Faith in you, Papa, in the things you believed
In your strength and courage and character.
I get through my days by pretending I'm you
When the people I love break my heart.

Papa'd say that or Papa'd do this
To make people think they can't hurt him.
"You keep it inside and cry in your pillow
But never let on you're uncertain."

"Keep your goals high and chase what you want
Keep in mind not to let your sights falter.
Don't hesitate to follow your dreams
When they shatter you don't stop to holler."

I thought I wanted to marry a man.
He was so very like you.
I worshipped him, Papa, and needed his love
As you needed mine, not long ago.

I scared him, I guess, he told me so
Being needed is often a burden.
My needing him so and showing it, lo
Made him run as did your children.

It was meant to happen so that I'd know
What life and loving should be.
How life if not ever filled to the brim
With love can death only be.

That is not to say 24 hours a day
One must constantly be with that person.
Too often through life one must survive
With memories some whole and some broken.

Love comes in spaces with long times between
But the real stuff lives through the years.
Your love for me Papa, still gives me strength
To go on though I know I have fears.

I'll pursue a career, the one you held dear
I'll make you proud of me yet.
I'm determined as well, to make people you knew
Proud that you they had met.

I'll take care of Mom, she misses you so
You'd be missing her, had she had to go.
And I'll carry a soft spot for the fellow I loved
For I know someday pain he will know.

You've left us all something, some little part
Of you, Papa, deep in our core.
"To you my darling daughter, I leave
A hole in you deep as the gorge."

-- Nan Nichols 6/29/72

 

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