Why You Should Do This

 

My Father on a Sled Smoking
By Charles Fishman

 

There he is on the sled, which is parked
on the front lawn. He's going nowhere fast,
yet the reins are in his hands -- no, not
the reins but the rope this small vehicle
is towed with. And he's a happy man --
anyone who motors by can see that:
the way he sits erect, his knees jutting
but not quite skyward, his feet in rubber
boots, jammed to the rudder and ready
to steer. The weather is mild and clear.

 

Now look at the lit cigarette that droops
from his lips that resist speaking, at his
ungloved hands that revel in their strength
and will not heed the cold. My father
is not yet old, though, unknown to him,
he is dying: if he continues to smoke
like this, his lungs will wither and blacken
his hands fall open in his lap. Though the day
is frozen in memory, his world is rushing
forward. Father, this is no time to relax.
Stand up now: you need to wrest control

 

from this poisoned future. Pitch the fresh pack
hidden in your jacket into the glitter of ice
and snow. Take off your cap and let it go.
Breathe in the sweet chill of this undreamt of
moment when life offers you a choice. Father,
listen to my voice that calls out to you
across the snow bound void: you will serve
at the last jolting second, and death's branches
will scar your face but, five decades later,
you will sit, knees wrapped in a white wool blanket:
a dear scared frail old man, dozing to Frank Sinatra
and almost at peace as sleep drags you down.

 

This is that moment:
Breathe in the sweet chill of this undreamt of
moment when life offers you a choice.

To a long and vital life, where we not only serve our grandchildren well, we actually play with them!

 

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