Tradition

I’m so thankful for dryer sheets,
For midnight sleets that keep me
Inside when I’d rather be under the stars
Puffing a Marlboro.

I make late night calls to Mom,
When she or I finally become so tired
We begin slurring our slurs,
And, listening, my father says,
“It sure ain’t no game for
Simple folk, thats for sure,”
And I bring forth laughter
Because I know he has never
Been simple.

No matter how distant we grew,
I took a leaf from her book.
Small things make families stick.
The little traditions always shook me,
The way the china catches the light,
Dish duty before and after just to make things right,
And setting table fork to left and spoon to right.
Homesick, I’d call her because dryer sheets
Were not always available in laundry mat machines
And I’d always forget to buy them.

My family wore only masks of our own faces,
And the truths we told were tales by firelight
Because flames always flickered beneath our skins.
Dad always had a job, and Mom did, too.
I never claimed to understand the sacrifices
Behind oil-covered boots and soiled shirt sleeves,
Nor late ledger-nights before deadline tax filings,
And even after adulthood slapped me in the face,
I could never keep pace with the depth and breadth of that love.

My life after childhood was a balloon expanded,
A swath of dark matter
That somehow filled the spaces
Between the places where something
I knew once stood.
And now I face that great unknown
And chuckle because I was always on this verge,
But I never opened my eyes to see
The threads you placed so carefully on the loom
Before the second Fate
Wove my life into a lotus blossom
On the edge of a charred, Tibetan tapestry.

I am not a parent, yet
Your generosity staggers me.
And I will always be
Forever grateful for
Dryer sheets.