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My Dad and Edgar Allan Poe

My dad and sister Faith at the nursing home, 2008 I love the light from the window.

My dad and sister Faith at the nursing home, 2008 I love the light from the window.

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crisped and sere –
As the leaves that were withering and sere;
And I cried: “It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed –
I journeyed down here! –
That I brought a dread burden down here –
On this night of all nights in the year,
Ah, what demon hath tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber –
This misty mid region of Weir –
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,
This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.”

— from Edgar Allan Poe’s Ulalume

There are few people, if any remaining, with whom I feel comfortable sitting and reading poetry. I did this often with my father before he got sick. He was a great orator, and I miss hearing him read. His voice was perfect for narrating the likes of Oscar Wilde’s Our Town; Alexander Pope’s Eloisa to Abelard or Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. His voice was rich and deep and booming.My father performed my first wedding ceremony. When it was over, Rabbi Packman, who was one of my college professors, said to me in the receiving line, “Your father has a great voice. It must have scared the hell out of you as a kid.” So, just imagine that same voice in exegetical insight from the pulpit. What a ride it was.

Like any adolescent, my dad could completely trip me out leaving me to slither under the nearest table. This usually happened when, in later years, I’d visit his office (for a short period of time he was a tax assessor) (such a divergent path for a poet and liberal) and he’d ask me to sing for his co-workers.

Seriously, sing. But, there was not one second that passed that I did not know my father’s unending love for me or admire his gifts, the least of which was his stunning and undeniable brilliance as a writer. At times, as a poet, I think he tried to emulate Edgar Allan Poe. At other times, as a convert to Christianity, I think he tried to emulate Paul the Apostle.

Poe and the Apostle both met unfortunate deaths. One died drunk on the streets of Baltimore. The other was crucified upside down. Gratefully, my father’s dying is less magnificent, but that does not mean that it is not gut-wrenching for me. Alzheimer’s sucks. But, it could be so much worse. It could have kidnapped him sooner or he could have left us empty-handed. Instead, my sisters and brother and I have his poetry and his voice inside our heads: Quoth the raven, and look to Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith.

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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7 Comments

  1. TheMuffinMan

    I love Poe… to this day I still have most of The Raven memorized.

  2. jenX

    @YOGI – Thanks for saying so. It is true. He was quite unique, and it came naturally for him.

    @JIM – I love that. My dad always read the Christmas story, but not the Night Before Christmas. What a neat idea.

    @WILDBILLY – Me, too, Bill. But, at least I still have you. You look so much like him. I never thought so when you were growing up, but now – it’s so apparent. I wish I had a pic of you, dad and Sully together. All so Elliott.

    @KENT – Thanks for making me not feel crazy for looking back so often.

  3. Anonymous

    Jen–
    Beautifully said…
    Hugs– Mom

  4. kent fischer

    Life is a journey…
    it takes us to unexpected places,
    helps us find new spaces,
    Remembering faces from the past and reflecting on our journey’s path.

    take care to enjoy and reflect often on your journey.

    Kent

  5. wildbillyelliott

    What a fitting retrospective on our father. Talented and flawed; brilliant and fragile. I miss him.

  6. Yogi♪♪♪

    Your Dad sounds like a very special man.

  7. Jim Smith

    Jen…another great tribute to you dad. It reminded me of a Christmas tradition our family had where my father would read the Christmas story from 2nd chapter of Luke and then follow it with “The Night Before Christmas” poem. It remains one of my favorite childhood memories.

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