In My Father’s House

By Cecil Morris



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The house that dementia built my father

filled with people.  It hummed with talk both day

and night, a host of long lost relatives

returned to relive stories he had never

shared with me.  Sometimes I was his brother,

the younger joking brother I at least

knew but seven years late then, and sometimes

I was his older brother or his father,

men I had never met.  Dad would tell stories

and I would add comments—I remember

that now or that must have made you laugh,

little feats of reflexive listening

that made his eyes light up, made him chuckle

and squeeze my arm with fingers harder

than any I remembered from my youth.

Uncle Tob made appearances and Martin

and Aunt Nora and Peg, who might have been

a dog.

                    And, when family would not appear,

when Dad seemed most vacant, lost, his blue eyes

faded gray and dull, his body sinking

in his recliner, Dad’s friends from the old shows

came a-calling.  When I’d bring him apple

slices and peanut butter toast and urge

him to eat, he’d tell Barn to calm down,

to hold his horses.  He’d tell Festus

he needed a shave and a new hat

and to get his horse saddled and ready

for him to ride.  Some days he’d ask me

to call in Della.

                                 And some days I would

be me, his son, and our conversation

would be the dull stuff of work and which birds

had visited the feeders in his yard,

the feeders I have at my house now.