Blowin' in the Wind
So it was like this: the camera caught us both unawares. I look wary, you harassed. We were on a trip to San Francisco – I remember that much. How old would I have been? Six, seven? Something like that. You, mid-thirty-something, just as handsome as I recall, though this particular shot misses the Frank Sinatra, flirty-eyed charm.
I had to dig through albums filled with thousands of incarnations of myself, my kids, extended family, friends still alive and some now dead, European vacations, graduations, cats, dogs, home remodeling projects to find this photo – just about the only one taken of the two of us together when I was a girl.
It wasn’t that you weren’t around. I wasn’t an abandoned daughter, nor an abused one. Just more invisible to you than I would have wished, especially given how much I adored you. Those were days before therapy was as common as a cold virus, before men dropped down from their high horses and diapered their babies, before daddies knew how much their attention meant to the hungry psyches of their little girls.
Lord knows, you had enough on your mind: busting your ass to make a living as a plumber when you were bright and well read enough to be a professor; trying to run a series of small family businesses when you had a head better suited to giving Bobby Fisher a run for his money at chess; haunted by your earliest life memory of hiding in Ukrainian rushes from the local idiots hell-bent on murdering a few Jews during a pogrom.
God, I loved you - your tender, liquid brown eyes; your sweet tenor voice singing I Dream of Jeanie; your passion for social justice and poetry; your ready burst of earthy laughter; your sturdy working man’s hands that took hold of mine as you lay close to the end in your hospital bed. Little did I know that you – the lifelong atheist – struggled with spiritual questions in your final years, wrote secret essays and poetry documenting an inner life that I would have loved to talk with you about. Frankly, they were more Jungian than I ever would have imagined. But you must have been too shy, possibly too ashamed to be so “irrational.”
O, you soulful primogenitor of me, organizer of steelworkers, teller of the richest and most human of stories, denouncer of pretension, lover of the rich tapestry of human thought, music, culture – I bring you forward today in undimmed love and admiration so that the world can at last get a little taste of the beauty of you: your kind and gentle heart; your earnest, exploring mind.
Here it is, people: a poem, written by my father, Charlie Karson, in 1982, his 70th year -
The wind ever whispers a message to me,
A challenging, mind-stirring message to me.
It is soothing and mellow like summer-brewed raindrops,
Like velvety raindrops, caressing my windowpane,
Like the whirring of wings as the hummingbird seeks
The taste of the nectar, the scent of the rose.
What am I? Who am I? Why am I?
Whence do I come and whereto am I bound?
I am but a fleeting, frail moment in time;
I am but a speck in the dust of the stars.
I’m also forever and made of the best,
The rarest of matter, the finest of mind.
I am the voice of the thunder, the white of the snow,
The touch of a lover: so tender, so sweet.
I am my forebears who lived in the past.
I am my offspring whose time is not yet.
I’m the might of the poet, the rival of God,
The singer of songs, and the weaver of dreams.
I am not as I seem: insecure and alone.
I’m part of all others: immortal and strong.
I am all that there is or ever will be.
I am everyone, everything – ALL!
And nothing, nothing at all.
Such is the message, the wind-borne message,
The soul-stirring message that whispers to me.
Your whispering soul stirs me still, Dad. How I'd love to hold your sturdy hand again this Father's Day.