Lauren Daley's BookLovers: My Father, the Poet
June 18, 2012
by Lauren Daley '05
South Coast Today
"Surely, he was all real things to us: our blue-striped unicorn, our double-lensed burning glass, our consultant genius, our portable conscience, our supercargo and our one full poet." - J.D. Salinger
One April night, 10 years ago, I took about a dozen friends from our freshmen dorm at Stonehill College to a beach in Westport for my friend Sarah's 19th birthday. We were going to have a birthday bonfire.
On the way, we stopped in at my parents' house in Little Compton, R.I., and after a little bit, we headed off. Later on, after the fire was lit, my friend Meg said, "Okay, so your dad is, like, this poet or something."
"What do you mean?" I asked. But I knew what she meant. And I was secretly floored.
Because this is what I had always thought about my dad - but I had lived with him for 19 years. I never thought anyone else could pick up on it so quickly.
"He's a lone wolf. An eccentric. A poet," she said, spinning her stick to toast her marshmallow evenly. "He's cool, but he doesn't know he's cool. And that makes him even cooler."
"It's all in the hair and the glasses," my friend Sarah added with a nod, referring to the shock of white curls and 1960s retro-style glasses my dad has worn since, well, they weren't retro.
"He's just quiet, just chillin' out, listening, when everyone else is being wicked loud," my friend Justin added as he opened the graham cracker box. "Plus his shirt was from a road race in 1980. That's badass."
The conclusion made that night around the fire was that Mr. Daley was, indeed, some kind of poet.
Not a sit-in-my-bedroom-and-write-sonnets-about-rocks poet, but a read-about-planets, run-five-miles-in-the-rain, guitar-playing, I'll-just-duct-tape-my-jacket, this-day-old-toast-is-perfectly-fine type poet.
That all my friends could see this from one visit blew my mind.
See, my dad has always been my hero. Since I was a little kid, I wanted to be just like him. I grew up not thinking, but knowing, my father was brilliant. Both my mom and my nana said so.
"Your father is brilliant," my nana would say when she babysat my sister and me.
"How do you know?" we'd ask.
"He's got the mind of a scientist and the hair of a nutty professor," she'd say, clasping her hands with an Irish mother's pride, seemingly equally proud of both brains and curls.
"Your father is brilliant," my mother would tell us after my dad had helped us with chemistry or algebra homework.
"Has this been tested?" we'd ask, not with sarcasm, but genuine interest. "Is this proven on paper?"
"Well no, but he reads the newspaper front to back every day," she'd say, straight-faced and completely matter-of-factly, as if this was a MENSA qualification. "He's always reading, your father."
My mother was always reading, too, but I think she meant that my dad read non-fiction, books about history or science. His book shelf doesn't have any John Grisham or cheap whodunnits.
My dad's shelves are filled with books about the cosmos or how black holes form; books about birds, trees, planets and stars.
My dad's shelves are filled with dog-eared classics like "Animal Farm," "1984," or "The Bridge Over San Luis Rey." Books he ordered decades ago from Time-Life: "Planet Earth," "Voyage Through the Universe," "Curious and Unusual Facts." Books with duct-taped spines that he still has from URI in the 1960s: "The Odyssey," "Walden," "Three Greek Tragedies."
Some dads are poets because they insist on mowing the lawn with an old-fashioned blade push mower. Because they insist on doing things the Hard Way. Because they play Neil Young on their guitar and because they still can't use a computer. Because they read about the night sky in front of their wood stove, burning with wood they stacked themselves in a house they helped build with their own two hands.
Some dads are poets because they love their kids with a love that can't quit: They will always worry about your car and pay for the oil change. They will help you move again and again. They slip gas money into your hand. Dads like these need to help you, need to love you, need to provide.
And there is always something to provide, with dads like these; there is always something more to teach you:
There is a concert you'd love, a walk at the beach you need to take, a classic film you should see, and always there are more books you should read.
The world can be a sad and lonely place, but it is also wonderfully bizarre and endlessly fascinating. They teach you this not so much in words but actions.
Dads like mine, they might stand and watch the waves crash, and you could sit there all day and wonder what they're thinking. And you may never know. He may never tell you.
But when he turns and sees you sitting on your blanket, he will hold his hand high in greeting, he will wait for you to wave back, and when you do, he will break into a smile.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. I love you.
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