Friday, June 15, 2018

Father's Day 2018



My father grew up in poverty, an orphan working on a farm in Poland.  When he was 20, he was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany where he spent 5 years as a slave laborer.  

He used to joke that Buchenwald was his high school and his university.  In fact, he didn't have much education at all, could barely read and write. 

But he had faith, a faith that in some ways I believe was strengthen by the years he spent in a concentration camp.

This is a piece about what he believed. 


What My Father Believed


He didn’t know about the Rock of Ages
or bringing in the sheaves or Jacob’s ladder
or gathering at the beautiful river
that flows beneath the throne of God.
He’d never heard of the Baltimore Catechism
either, and didn’t know the purpose of life
was to love and honor and serve God.

He‘d been to the village church as a boy
in Poland, and knew he was Catholic
because his mother and father were buried
in a cemetery under wooden crosses.
His sister Catherine was buried there too.

The day their mother died Catherine took
to the kitchen corner where the stove sat,
and cried.  She wouldn’t eat or drink, just cried
until she died there, died of a broken heart.
She was three or four years old, he was five.

What he knew about the nature of God
and religion came from the sermons
the priests told at mass, and this got mixed up
with his own life.  He knew living was hard,
and that even children are meant to suffer. 
Sometimes, when he was drinking he’d ask,
“Didn’t God send his own son here to suffer?”

My father believed we are here to lift logs
that can’t be lifted, to hammer steel nails
so bent they crack when we hit them.
In the slave labor camps in Germany,
He’d seen men try the impossible and fail.

He believed life is hard, and we should
help each other.  If you see someone
on a cross, his weight pulling him down
and breaking his muscles, you should try
to lift him, even if only for a minute,
even though you know lifting won’t save him.
_____

This piece and other prose and poetry pieces about my dad and my mom appear in my book Echoes of Tattered Tongues, available at Amazon.  Just click here.

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