January 17, 2013

About Boys, Men, and their Fathers

I've sat in a lot of circles with guys of all ages. It’s very often the case, maybe always the case, that when the conversation comes around to fathers, most guys have a lot to say. For so many, it’s a difficult story to tell.

As a part of training men to work with young males, we bring them back to the relationship with their fathers to help them get at any emotional residue. We want them to be in fresh contact with their father issues, feelings and hungers. By reconnecting with the complexity in that relationship, they are better prepared to support so many of the young males who are struggling to understand and cope with what is going on with them and their fathers. It’s bitter-sweet work that often leads to supported healing for all the men involved.

Two Man-Making subscribers have submitted the following poetic expressions describing the love, longing, sadness, maybe even hopelessness they have in their relationship with their fathers. Let’s see what they bring up for you.

In a very personal poem written by contributor Rick Belden, he tells a story of his relationship with his father as represented by an array of his father’s tools.

tools my father gave me
socket sets
a hacksaw
and so on
are laid out on cardboard on the living room floor
it looks like an autopsy scene
       what caused this person to die?
or a forensic examination site
       what caused this plane to crash?
or the results of an archaeological dig
       what was this lost civilization like and why did it fail?
each object carefully positioned just as it was found
waiting to be tagged
and taken off to the museum.

these are the tools my father gave me
as christmas presents when I was a kid
the contents of a big
chunky clunky
heavy as hell
old rusty metal toolbox
       also a christmas present
       from my dad
I don't know what to do with this stuff
the part of me that dislikes disorder wants to
       put it all away
       or get it out of here
but I think it's exactly as it should be for now
       spread out on the floor
       like the contents of an open grave
and I'm gonna leave it that way for a while
a monument in progress
to a lost cause I've finally turned loose.

for almost fifty years I continued to hope
that I could work it out with him somehow
that we could have some big breakthrough
if I could just figure it all out
if I could understand him
       what he wanted from me
if I just had enough time
if I was just smart enough
to work it all out.

I finally had to admit defeat
I finally had to let it all go
because I finally knew beyond a shadow of a doubt
that it was never gonna work
       no matter what I did
       no matter how hard I tried
       or how long I tried
it was never gonna work
I was never gonna be what he wanted
and he was never gonna be what I wanted
       or give me what I needed
       no matter how much I needed it
it simply wasn't gonna happen

nothing I did
       or didn't do
       or could have done
no amount of patience
       or waiting
       or forgiving
       or confronting
       or achieving
       or accommodating
was ever gonna change anything between him and me
that's just the way it is
and always will be.

so here I am
with the tools he gave me
       all laid out on the floor
       like dinosaur bones
       waiting to be reassembled
they've been there
just like that
for over a year now
       a dusty little metal graveyard in my living room
       a free-form sculpture in iron and steel
of grief and loss and never was.

Copyright © 2008 by Rick Belden, - rickbelden.com - Author of
Iron Man Family Outing: Poems about Transition into a More Conscious Manhood

Michael Sterling said, An incredible song / poem came into my life recently - a love song from a man to his father. For years, I hated and raged at my father. After living my own mistakes, I've learned to have compassion for him. This poem, Mi querido viejo (My dear old man), by Piero, it speaks to this journey in both the man and his son. I offer this with thoughts - sadness, compassion, forgiveness & gratitude for Ron, my father passed.
My Spanish isn't native or perfect, but listen deep to the words in this translation and you will feel it all:

Viejo mi querido Viejo / My dear old man

He's a good man my old man
He travels alone and waiting
He seems sad
from so much traveling

I look at him from afar
but we are so different
he grew up in the century
with tramcars and wine

Old man, my dear old man
now you walk so slowly
as if you were forgiving the wind
I am your blood, my old man
I am your silence and your time

He has good eyes
and a heavy figure
Age came upon him
Without show, without audience

I have the new years
and the man, the old years
He holds his pain inside
and his stories are timeless

My old man, my dear old man
no you walk so slowly
as if you were forgiving the wind
I am your blood, my old man
I am your silence and your time
I am your blood, my old man

In this clip Piero singing Viejo mi querido Viejo in Spanish,
accompanied by some wonderful graphics.

If the video doesn’t appear above use this link.

Did these expressions touch something in you? If you’re inclined, use the comments section below to post to share your reaction. If you’re and email subscriber, send me a note directly and (if you’re willing) I’ll share it with others in the comments to the post.

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1 comment:

  1. The two selections complement one another well, I think. It's so important for men to know that there is a range of options and outcomes possible when approaching one's father wound. Sometimes the healing path results in a reconciliation or reunion; sometimes healing means letting go and moving on. What is best in one case may not be best in another. Every path, and every father-son relationship, is unique. Thanks again for the opportunity to share some of my work on your blog.


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