When he remembers
it is my face, my name,
that I am his son, and also
the joyful visits and nonsense conversations
and kindness—-especially the kindness
and him finally telling me
I love you
It is the three years of this he remembers and
not the fifty years of trauma, anger, cruelty
of a man broken by three wars and
other things that break men
that I do not know
When he leaves this life to go to the next
I release his fifty years of debt that
has been repaid by my sons
who I am so different with than
he was with me, repaid by
all those who love me with
deed and word so strong that love
is made air saturating the breath in my lungs
I send him a prayer on a wisp of a sigh
I forgive you
I wish you well
Next life this will come
to him at odd moments in
small quiet fragments and
he will wonder if
he loved a son like me
in a past life or maybe
it was a just dream or a wish
but he will remember

Notes from the interview that inspired this poem:

He had recently lost his father to COVID-19 and was reflecting on forgiveness. For the majority of his life with his father, they did not have a positive relationship. However, in the last three years of life his father lost his memory and his personality changed into someone who was loving and kind. During this time, his father–who maintained his memory of his son–told him that he loved him for the first time. In reflecting on forgiveness, he said he was at peace, mainly due to the love surrounding him from people in his life who allowed him to be who he was meant to be. He wished the same peace for his father.

Interviewee: Anonymous
Listener Poet: Yvette Perry

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