It is my father’s birthday. In the last few years of my mother’s life, I made it a point to write openly on the deep love and admiration I had for her. I wanted nothing to go unsaid after we went through so much that remains unspoken. Today, I do not fully know what to say, Dad. Perhaps it is easier to find the words to say “I love you” than “Thank you.” Robert Hayden’s poem ‘Those Winter Sundays’ always reminds me of you Dad: “Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.” And like Hayden’s prodigal son, I too have spoken indifferently in the face of such sacrifice. “What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?” Dad, you have helped so many people – from veterans who die every night in their dreams, to weekly brunching with your beautiful transgendered patients in the Bowery, to incarcerated men and women who typically only visit our daily lives as numbers and statistics, our mother, your children and so many others I will never know – all of us robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. This is what Joyce meant. The wise see the same face in the face of all men. This is where love lies. Love is only love when it is unconditional. You have had such a difficult life, yet you choose beauty instead of ugliness, hope in the place of despair and faith with love. Thank you, Dad, for this ultimate lesson on how to love – and how to live.
Those Winter Sundays