An Austere Love

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices? 
–  Robert HaydenThose Winter Sundays

As a child growing up,
I was oblivious
to the sacrifices my parents made
to keep the house warm,
place food on the table,
to teach us the importance of faith and belief,
to crack the door of opportunity open,
so we could walk through
to a better life.

It was no small offering
to keep dry seasoned fire and stove wood always at the doorstep,
to milk the cows twice a day,
to grow and preserve fruits and vegetables months in advance,
to raise and butcher meat animals,
to read books together every night,
to sit with us over homework
and drive us to 4H, Cub Scouts and Camp Fire,
to music lessons and sports,
to sit together, never missing a Sunday morning,
to worship God.

This was their love,
so often invisible,
too often imperfect,
even when they were angry with one another–
yet its encompassing warmth
splintered and broke
the grip of cold and loneliness
that too often
overwhelms and freezes
a child’s heart and soul.

What did I know?
Too little then,
maybe a little more now.

4 thoughts on “An Austere Love

  1. ‘Out of the depths, I cry…”
    I don’t have words, dear Emily. They are still echoing within my soul.
    It was (is) my father that I have been remembering as I read and re-read your words
    — in nearly the same manner as you have touched on here. Daddy was a finance expert, banker
    provider, who fathered me and my five brothers.

    The children of my generation perhaps may recall that each
    parent differed in how his and her roles as father, mother were sharply divided in that era.
    It was a cultural norm, not questioned, the same it seems in nearly every family.. It has been only recently within the past few years that I have realized how he showed his love for me and my
    five brothers.

    The morning Daddy died in 1977, I was at his bedside holding his hand. He looked at
    me with such love in his eyes as he managed to squeeze my hand. I knew then, as the feeling
    of our mutual love coursed through my body and soul, that I had lost something precious in my life.
    I just could not name it. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I know now that he DID love me. I was too
    young to recognize it….
    It has been forty-four years now that I have ventured back and remembered with loving clarity
    HOW MUCH he loved me. He could not demonstrate it in words nor in outward affection….
    I hope that Jesus will choose my Daddy to be the one to meet me as I leave this temporary
    life for my new, eternal, home. We have much to discuss, to remember. to be grateful for….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As hard as this 10 month isolation for my father has been,
    we have talked hundreds of hours on the telephone reminiscing and calling old friends via conference calls.
    More recently we have made many video calls.
    We have talked more in the last year than maybe in the previous 70.
    I still struggle to forgive myself for allowing him to remain in isolation
    under the driectives of the PA Department of Health.
    Yes. In the 1950s there was little money for a struuggling farmer and his family,
    but then he became a carhauler.
    He loved his job . He made many friends all acroos the country.
    His rolodex is evidence of that.
    And he paid for my college education. As a result of that,
    I became a teacher and taught second grade students for 37 1/2 years.
    My father and my mother were good parents.
    Both with generous hearts – often extending a helping hand to another in need.
    Life was good…sometimes hard, but always family working together.
    It was a simple life with grandparents and cousins and neighbors on the nearby farm.
    During these last 10 months,
    we have reached back into our memory banks and savored the past once again.

    Liked by 1 person

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