Following My Son

015_13 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He pedals on ahead,

turning a corner

as I crawl slowly behind

in the car.

Headlights cut the night,

showing him the way.

Hawaiian music drifts

from the radio,

something about rainbows

and a wonderful world.

 

It’s tricky,

keeping the right distance,

and as we near our house

I realize this perfect

little arrangement must end.

 

But

what if he blew past

our driveway,

and pedaled into his future,

with me guiding him along

from behind?

 

Could a father

follow his son

like this

forever?

 

I can see him,

embarrassed again,

navigating the maze

of middle school,

trying hard to ignore

the sound

of my side view mirrors

scraping against lockers

behind him.

 

And I can see him

holding an unopened beer

at a party

with me parallel-parked

near the fridge.

My hazards are flashing,

signaling the dangers to come,

even as they match the beat

of the music I don’t understand.

 

And I can see him

walking into an interview

as I idle next to the elevators,

listening to the receptionist cough

as carbon monoxide fumes

fill the lobby

and distract the other candidates

from their last minute preparations.

 

And I can see him

drying off his son at a baptismal font,

the congregation politely applauding

as a car horn honks wildly

from the reserved parking area

just behind the pews.

 

But I see him

slow down instead

and coast purposefully

into our driveway.

Home.

 

I signal the right turn,

humming along

with that ukulele,

watching

end

credits

roll

up

across

the

windshield

as our trip nears its end.

 

I’m following my son.

For now, anyway.

 

As I put the car in park

and turn the key,

darkness fills in,

but everything’s clear –

 

he’ll use his own light

to find his way,

to search somewhere

over those rainbows,

and to come to know

this wonderful world

on his own.

 

 

This poem was inspired from a night I followed my eight year-old son Danny home on his bike from a friend’s house in 2005.

I had written in my writer’s notebook that night a seed for developing later: a cool life moment: Danny in the headlights of our Dodge Caravan, riding his bike home in front of me. Slowly following him so he’d be safe. Cool music on the radio. It’s got that ukulele and humming in it and it’s from a TV ad. It was like a scene out of a movie.

 A year and a half later, I started the first draft of a poem at a Capital District Writing Project writing retreat. I’ve been revising it every so often for ten years.

“A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” – Paul Valery

This final draft was revised and edited again for the Slice of Life challenge, March 2016. Today is Dan’s 20th birthday, 3/23/16, and I have officially abandoned this poem.

Happy birthday, Dan! Keep searching somewhere over those rainbows…your light is already shining bright.          Love, Dad

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24 thoughts on “Following My Son

  1. I have to agree…Wow! I thought this poem was beautiful & profound. Then I read the inspiration & process…That just blew me away. Happy Birthday to your son…and thank you for allowing us to experience this poem

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! This poem and the process behind it are inspiring. There are so many images I love and behind it all the love you have for your son shines through. I can empathize with this desire to follow our children through their lives, hazards flashing or horn beeping in celebration. I’m going to print this out and read it again and again. Thanks for sharing your poetic gifts–they are many!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the transition of this part:

    I can see him,/embarrassed again,/navigating the maze/of middle school,/trying hard to ignore/the sound/of my side view mirrors/scraping against lockers/behind him.

    It took me a second to realize what was happening and then I was ready for what followed.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is stunning. It hits to close to home for me, and I’m sure for so many parents. Though my sons are still little, I think about this all the time – how I can instill the light that will guide them to make safe, wise choices throughout their lives. From first steps to car keys to moving away, letting go as a parent is one of the hardest things we do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So glad I visited your blog this morning and read this superb piece. Brilliant metaphor and lovely use of humor and poignant emotion. Reminds me of some of my favorite pieces by Billy Collins. Loved the insight into your process as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. so beautiful…I also just love how you revisited a “seed” entry over a year later and wrote this beautiful piece. It reminds me and inspires me to pull out my notebook to capture these fleeting childhood moments of my own children. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well…I’m crying now…because this is just so beautiful and so important…and because my sons are 17 and 14…and because every moment of work and time and thought that you put into this poem over the years made it even stronger and more powerful. What a gift!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ditto to what everyone said – your poem is truly special. My favorite part, and how clever, were the scrolling credits. Your piece shows the power of love and revision. Well worth the effort and heart!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love it Matt and knowing both of you makes it that so much more special. The imagery was so strong and clear I had the vision in my mind’s eye the whole time. Beautiful!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kerry – St J/St A is exactly the place where I imagined that scene taking place! All are welcome there, even in automobiles, so there would be no eye rolling from the former parish priest, however.

      Like

  10. Poignant. I loved how you build the tension with proximity of the car and the sounds one would hear. Then the turning point was elegant as you arrive home and envision the future. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 1 person

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