Oh, My Papa

cigarOh my papa, to me he was so wonderful

Oh my papa, to me he was so good

Gone are the days when he would hold me on his knee

And with a smile, he’d turn my tears to laughter


Oh My Papa, was a popular song when I was growing up. I used to sing it and wonder if people really had such a relationship with their father. 

One afternoon I brushed against a photo album while cleaning my office, and watched it tumble to the floor. I bent to pick it up. I was in a hurry, and having to retrieve it heightened my impatient haste. The album had fallen open to a picture of my father in his hospital bed. The sight of him froze my attention. He looked straight at me, as if trying to tell me something, as if there was something left unsaid. I looked closer. There he was peering back at me, this proud angry man dressed in one of those awful cotton hospital dresses, his eyes pleading, and reaching out.

His eyes always told the truth, unlike his words.

He looked like a drowning man who had realized for the first time that no one could save him, that no one could make a difference, not now or ever again. My heart went out to him. I picked up the photo album and held it in my arms, pressing it against my heart, the way I longed to reach out and cradle his soul, the way I longed to release the bottomless unspoken pain that called to me from his broken life. I wanted to bury my feelings for him with his body, but it was not that easy.

I sat there for, I don’t know how long, embracing his spirit. There was nothing in the world but the two of us, and then I closed the cover and put it away. God, how I hated him and how I loved him so.