my father's lesson
poem by  
  keith  o'connor
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.Sometimes when we look back on the frictional events that occurred between ourselves as children and our parents - we see our parents with different eyes. My father always said:  "I expect you to understand me when your are a man". I will assume that he knew that I would understand him - he's dead now - and that his words were not just his way of putting a positive spin on a hope.
my father's lesson 

half a century has passed 
my fathers voice 
still rings clear 
in the ear of my memory 
"don't accept any gifts" 
"from the old priest" 

I saw no point 
in my father's words 

the old priest 
had never given me anything 
my older brother's 
on the other hand 
always talked of the delights 
they had conned from the old priest 

I didn't understand 
why my father 
was ordering me 
not to accept anything 
from the old priest 
I tossed my father's words 
into a 
corner of my memory 
I needn't worry  
and went out to play 

a few weeks passed 
my father's words 
were to unexpectedly 
play themselves out 
one fall evening 
late in the nineteen forties 

I saw the old priest 
in his black hat 
walking towards me 
and with every step 
a shinny black shoe-toe 
popped out 
from under his long black dress 

"well - well" 
"if it isn't the" 
"baby of the family" 
"and what are you playing at" 

"playing pirate" 
I showed him 
my tree branch pirate-pistol 
showed him how 
the branch shapes 
could be imagined 
into a flintlock pirate pistol 
I told him of a pirate cap pistol 
in a store up the street 
described it's shape 
it's metal shine 
how I would 
go into the store 
just to look at it 

"take me there" 
"I would like to see it" 
I continued to 
talk his ear off 
as we walked down 
Water St. turned 
at the corner 
where my great-grandfather 
had his shoe- maker shop 
in the eighteen eighties 
it was still a shoe-maker shop 
where stained - well worn floors 
gave off the exotic smell of oil 
and leather 
we walked up Dalhousie St. 
turned into the little store 
I pointed at the pirate cap pistol 
in the center of the 
large glass display case 
that came up to my chin 

"it's a beauty" 
"how much" 
he asked the proprietor 
"two dollars" 
"I'll take it" 

he handed the cap pistol 
to me 
"it's your's" 

I must be dreaming 
this really happened 
we left the store 
the old priest looked 
down at me 
"have fun" 
"with your pirate pistol" 
"I have to go now" 
"good by" 
he turned 
walked up towards  
Rideau st. 

I was left 
with a beautiful pirate pistol 
and my father's words 

my father doesn't know 
I'll sneak it by him 
and hide it upstairs 
in my secret place 

I came through the front door 
walked  past my father 
heading for my upstairs 
secret place 
he just looked at me 
"what do you have there" 
how did he know 
"a cap gun" 
I said 
"where did you get it" 
"from the old priest" 
"you know what I told you" 
"yes " 
"hand it to me" 
I handed my father  
the cap pistol 
he put it into 
his desk drawer 
closed and locked it 
my beautiful pirate cap gun 
was gone 

winter came 
I played through winter 
I played through spring 
I played through summer 

one evening in late fall 
my father called me over 
to his desk 
he unlocked the drawer 
opened it 
reached in 
brought out my pirate cap gun 
handed it to me 
"you have learned your lesson" 

I looked down at it 
it felt strange 
it looked strange 
I no longer cared about the cap gun 
what I had wanted yesterday 
was not what I wanted today 
I was a year older 

my father's lesson 
taught me  
what I believe today 
may not be 
what I believe tomorrow 

in the old priest 
I now see kindness 
that doesn't change 
in my father 
I now see wisdom 
that understands change 

Keith O'Connor 
2001 Dec  4 
Ottawa Ontario Canada 

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