Monday, July 14, 2008

Stephen Lewandowski and Helen Ruggieri Write about Their Fathers

Over the years, poets Stephen Lewandowski and Helen Ruggieri have collaborated on a series of poems and short essays about their fathers that says something essential about the way all of our fathers have touched us and keep touching us.

This writing now appears at The Scream on Line, an online journal of the arts, culture, and literature. If you scroll down The Scream's contents page the collaboration appears under the heading Poetry.

Here's one of the short essays from Steve and Helen's collection:


Stephen Lewandowski

I was thirteen when my mother and I drove to Buffalo to visit my father in the hospital. He’d been there several months but he was too sick to see us, the doctors said. Now, they said, he’d improved enough so that our visit might be a good thing for him.

Before we arrived, I knew from talk in the family that they’d tried shock therapy on him. Nothing else had worked for long, so they hoped that shock might be an improvement. I thought of the Frankenstein monster shocked into life, but this was different, wasn’t it?

When the orderlies brought him into the visiting room, at first I couldn’t even be sure that it was him, he was so thin and pale. He wasn’t wearing his clothes-- he was dressed in scrubs the same as the orderlies. His eyes had always been blue, but now they were different, light and shallow, vacant.

At first there was no recognition in his face. He looked drawn and tired, but then the blue of his eyes seemed to deepen and spread, and he saw my mother and me, sitting and waiting for him. His gaze became intelligent. He understood who we were and took us in. The doctor had been talking about his improvement, and my mother and I had gone on about news at home, but finally he said, “Thanks for coming to visit me.” He didn’t have much to say about where he had been, but in a few words he returned to us.

On the trip home, that change in his eyes is what I remembered and turned over in my mind. Who was that person who, at first, didn’t remember us? Who recovered and slowly returned to the man we knew so well?

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