This is a confessional poem.
The last time I ever saw my father he was a beam of light,
Blue, reaching from heaven above to the earth below.
Reaching to me.
In life, my father was a complicated man. A hero
In the war, strong on the hardest of battlefields.
In marriage, he was a liar and a cheat, constantly.
He went through his life fueled by good whiskey
And armed with finely made firearms.
My father could not stand a bully. He died at 58.
We agreed on little. He was my role model
Of things to avoid. We fought a lot, and after that
Would be long periods of mutual silence.
In those silences I learned to be a man.
Then my late father came to me in dreams.
In the early dreams he was clearly troubled,
Often angry, or upset and weeping.
Sometimes his ghost would be pointing at me.
I would wake up feeling like a criminal.
But slowly, over a couple of decades,
The dreams improved. My father became friendly.
We would sit in cafes and sip coffee and talk.
Conversations that were real. I would ask him to stay,
And he would smile and say not to worry,
That he would be back soon.
One night when I was a man in my forties
I had the best dream of all. My father told me jokes
And we hid from the ghost of his Aunt Dolly
So as not to be interrupted. He said,
“I only come here to haunt you.”
Just like that, it was over. No more dreams.
I was nearly 50. Was I a man now?
I wondered that. Maybe it wasn’t about me,
I thought that. Maybe he needed this.
Perhaps it was time to let my father go.
His name was James Lee Jobe, like mine.
I became James Lee Jobe when I married.
James Elvin Jobe married Alexandra Lee
And we each put the names together.
And I was also James Lee Jobe, like him.
But I wasn’t like him at all.
I had a lot more peace than he ever did.
I began to want to tell him that I loved him.
I needed to say the words to my father,
Words that he and I had used so seldom.
When I went to bed at night, I asked for a dream.
Just one more dream.
It took some time. I was in my mid-50s
When the two James Lees met again.
It was in a dark and silent field somewhere,
We both knew fields in our lives.
A blue beam of light reached from heaven to earth,
Right to my feet. It was simply beautiful.
Blue light shone on me, on the field, on the sky.
I touched the light, and there inside it
Was the face of the other James Lee.
“This is me now, son. I am happy, at peace,
But I can’t keep coming back now. That’s over.”
We each said the words then, and it was done.
My father never returned again,
And I know that he won’t. And that’s alright.
It took us more than a half-century, but we got there
As a father and a son. Not in the usual way,
But it ended in love and acceptance.
So why am I telling you this?
So you’ll know that you can make it, too.
You might be the drunken parent,
Or you might be the forgotten child,
But I am telling you that can make it to the light.
James Lee Jobe made it, and you can, too.
Goodbye for now.