it was the weekend before Christmas
I’d returned to the town I grew up in
for a funeral of sorts

an old friend had died too young
and his clan was gathering
to fete him out in style

hundreds came
raised a glass

on the same trip
I went to the local hospital
to see the man who raised me

the man I called Dad
I’d seen him several weeks ago
and he’d been okay

in the intervening days
he had tumbled
he’d fallen headfirst

into his own
he’d quit

taken out his teeth
and given up

this man and I
don’t share a name
or blood

the space between us
has always been tempered
by my mother, my sisters

as death approaches
slower than my father would wish
it seems all pretense is gone

I’ve called this man Dad
for fifty years
and when I arrived

and asked if he
wanted a visit
he said “no”

knowing it might be our last
I said those things
I wanted him to know

attempted to say my goodbye
longed for some connect
some eye contact

my voice echoed around his room
and I sat there listening to it
until it was time to leave

I kissed his balding head
and watched his eyes
not watching me

I said my sad goodbyes
and then
walked quiet down the hall

he’d never said

Michael Dennis