Dad to Father

I see from your eyes, Dad, my childhood taking place  
within arms outstretched and spinning. You think I’ll never let go, 
I’ll hold on as long as she wants. I’ll swing my daughter off her feet,  
round and round, just to hear that little giggle.  
My bones might pop and clack, 
but to see her so limber,  
I will be young with her. 

Sun light flickers as the camera clicks, capturing a Dad and his little girl swimming.  
That little girl who clings to her Dad’s back–he swims for them both, 
the water from the pool, cooling her barely worn skin. 
The sun and trees lean in because they so badly want  
to share in their grins–this little girl who loves  
her Dad so much; who thinks, 
I will never let go. 

Dad spins me around in the park. We speed up as he counts: one, two, three! 
At his call I release my feet from off the ground. My stretched body  
floats up and down, through the air. I am flying with my Dad  
at the center of my spinning world. Wind brush 
rush, softly caressing, heart flutters, pulsing  
pitter patter–then shudder. 
My feet connect with soil. 
I stutter, then say  
Again, again!! 
Dad says  
You are  
getting too big 
 for Father. 
We leave the park.  

I was nine, I believe. I can see him in the kitchen, the tile floor cold  
compared to the hot humid room. He is by the stove heating up soup.  
He says Soup cools you in hot weather. 
I doubt him and his words. 
How can soup cool when the air  
makes my skin stick to the leather. 
Though I doubted him then, I now 
eat soup in 90 degree weather.  

I lay on the couch and watch as he goes: to work, to a new home, 
to a new family.  
Every once in a while, I’ll get to comb his hair or  
share a piece of our days, but it’s never the same. 
He’s too busy or no longer mentally there.  
He doesn’t swing me in circles. He doesn’t tell me  
to eat soup on those especially warm Florida days. 
He warns me about the boys  
who will love me.  
He makes plans 
but calls early to cancel. 
He says I’m sorry  
and sends a bar of soap and a washcloth. 
He says… 
He goes…  
I see him one week later. 
He says…  
He goes… 
One month passes.  
He says…  
He goes…  
One year… 
Does he remember? The spinning? The soup? The swimming? He was my Dad but 
now he is Father. Perhaps he is a stranger with a link of regrets that tie him 
to his fully grown daughter. I know he loves me  
and I love him. I still have my memories: 
hot soup in 90 degree weather, 
my arms outstretched and spinning, 
and us swimming in a pool 
that used to feel much deeper. 
With all these and more, 
I will always be his little girl.