Saturday, December 03, 2005

Charles Shaw

My Daddy

Today is the anniversary of the saddest day in my life so far. In a way, I should be grateful. So many people have had greater tragedy in their lives. I have relatives who have lost young fathers and sons. I have lost close friends at much younger ages. My Daddy was 67 when he died suddenly, of a heart attack, in 1986. He had led a busy and successful life. He grabbed life by the horns and he loved his family and friends fiercely and without reserve.

My sisters, Carol and Joan, have posts on their blogs about my daddy. Joan's is named Daddy's Roses. Today, Carol has posted an article she wrote about Daddy a few years after his death. My mother has been posting autobiographical sketches in her blog, Ruthlace. One is about her eventful "visit" with Daddy in San Diego before he shipped off to the Pacific with the Marine Corps in 1944.

Another sister, Beth, has paid tribute to my father on the web site she maintains for the little mill town where he grew up, Milstead, Georgia.

I've expressed grief over Daddy's death in poetry several times. Here are two poems.

The first is about the grief therapy I found in being able to complete, with the help of my brother and even my beautiful little three-year-old daughter, Daddy's Christmas woodworking projects for his grandchildren.

The second is about the sadness I feel that my youngest wasn't able to know her granddaddy and the fear that perhaps his death was even necessary to the miracle that she is. (My poetry is replete with references to ways that, paradoxically, good sometimes springs from evil: A morbid fascination of mine.)

In Daddy's Workshop, The Day He Died
December 3, 1986
for Charles Shaw, 1919-1986

Scraps of pine, pieces of oak
await his hands
guiding the teeth of a saw,
the bite of a router,
the grit of a sander,
color from a brush,
the polishing rag.
His stubby fingers trace the shaped edges;
test the smooth surface.

Scent of pine, and pungent oak
mingle with his in the denim jacket
on a nail near the door,
with pocketed pencil and tape handy.

He stands here, hours ago,
the great boy,
planning his surprise,
sketching, exploring the shapes to be formed.

Scraps of pine, pieces of oak
want cutting, shaping, sanding, shining;
cry to be more: sled, cradle, rocking horse;
await his hands.

He speaks to the scraps and pieces:
"Tomorrow I'll buy maple for the runners."

Tomorrow is here;

and he is here

in scraps and pieces
in scent and plans;

and here am I,
his hands.

Scraps of pine, pieces of oak
cry to the him in me:

You have rockers, ends, planks, plans,
and three weeks till Christmas.

All Things Work Together:
A Daughter is Born
to Lillian

If Daddy hadn't died, would this poem be?

-- A bull through china, the ugly thought crashes --

Would his longer thread in the mesh
of years obstruct by chance
that one in a trillion accident of love,
coincidence of sperm and egg?

-- The breakage, unmanaged, scatters and
scratches! --

Could his garden bugs these years have fed
a nest of wrens to send a wanderer to my window?
And letting a living poem sleep,
might I have written, instead, the wren?

-- Bull-headed I sweep the debris --

If Daddy lives, must the poem vanish?

I weep for my Daddy;
I mourn the wren that never was;
And welcome you to my heart, my present poem.


The wonderful gift my father gave each of his children was unconditional love. Whatever else was going on in his life or ours, each of the seven of his offspring knew: Charles Shaw loves me and will be there for me if I need him regardless of miles or expense. Thank you, Daddy.


  1. Beautiful poetry. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Words fail me at the beauty of your poems and tribute to your Daddy, a truly great man!

    I was so blessed to have his love and the gifted children who came from our love and God's love.