Some of the best reads for any of us are the journals and writings of our ancestors. My father died ten years ago this July. Does that make Dad my ancestor? According to Webster’s, yes. I tend to think of ancestors as people who lived generations ago, not my own dad — the man whose expressive face is as clear as the sound of his hearty laughter saved in my mind, the man who picked me up and carried me to the house when I fell off my bike, the man on whom I leaned my head and rested as he drove us home after church on Sunday evenings. . . .
Dad’s now my ancestor, certainly my children’s and grandson’s ancestor. So, his writings are now more valuable. Here is one of his poems followed by some commentary from me. (I couldn’t get my blog to center my lines and leave spaces between the verses (spent too much time experimenting!), so the layout isn’t right, but you can still enjoy the poem.)
To Get Home Before It’s Dark
By Rev. Marion R. Thomas
Once I was young and active, and now I am getting old.
My body, once warm and dynamic, now becomes so cold.
I was a child around children, now older folks are near
To be my close companions, to share and help and cheer.
Once I loved to travel distance, and see all kinds of sights.
But now I want to stay close by and be at home at night.
I loved to travel here and there, and life was such a lark,
But now my aim is always to get home before it’s dark!
I took a wife and enjoyed life and worked with all my strength.
We built our home with beauty, going to any length.
We worked and played our every day, resting so sweet at night.
With sparkling eyes we bought supplies and did that which is right.
Then came a child into our home, and then arrived her sister.
And, oh, we were so happy; we hugged and cooed and kissed her.
Now I’m a child again, as I play with our sweet family,
And wife and I again games play, so very warm and happy.
The years roll by, grandchildren come; then quiet is our home.
They’ve moved away, makes long my day, as o’er the earth they roam.
Now since I’m old and weary, and have of life a spark,
I’ll keep Heaven on my mind to get Home before it’s dark!
Dad wrote this poem in 1987, “as my wife and I come to age 70.” My mother turned 70 that year, and Dad did the following year.
Dad presented this and several of his other poems in 1988 to a 5th grade class at the Arlington Public Elementary School which is near Bluffton, Ohio (where my parents retired) . Dad taught 5th grade in a country school outside of Bowling Green, Ohio when I was in elementary school. For a number of years, I believe over ten, Dad was both a pastor and a school teacher, teaching Religious Education, back when this could be done in public schools, and 5th grade. (Then for the rest of his career, he focused on his pastoring of newly planted Grace Brethren churches.) Dad always loved children and loved teaching them. I remember visiting his classroom and seeing him with the children. They were so responsive to him, because they knew, even when he held them to a standard, that he loved them. You could see it by the way he enjoyed them.
He was so enthusiastic. A part of him never grew up. I remember hearing him say a number of times the year he died, “Oh, I’m just a happy boy!” I will always hear his laughter in my mind and smile when I remember his corny jokes.
I think he really liked returning to a 5th grade classroom to share his poetry. He was invited as a living poet to share some of his poems because the class was at this time doing a poetry unit. I can imagine that a number of students were inspired to tell stories through poems after his visit. The teacher sent Dad a packet of poems written by the children after his visit(s).
Dad read several poems with the children, and then asked them what they heard and saw in the poems. He also presented a poem about his mother and one about his dad to the kids. He encouraged them to relate his poems to their own experiences and to ask their parents and grandparents to tell them family stories.
Dad’s poetry writing style is simple, usually employing familiar rhythms with a crisp, concrete vocabulary and a simple sentence structure. His joyful spirit bubbles through most of his poems. His tone is usually wistful or playful through which he weaves colorful descriptions and narrations with occasional pithy instruction. He can also be contemplative, such as in his poem, “Suppose,” written in the 1940s “when I was in my youth and contemplating my life.” The poem begins this way:
“Suppose that Christ had not been born
That far away Judean morn.
Suppose that God, whose mighty hand
Created worlds, had never planned
A way for man to be redeemed.
Suppose the Wise Men only Dreamed!. . . .”
Supposing is a helpful reasoning process. Where does supposing take you? Where, do you anticipate, will it lead us in this poem?
*According to Webster’s, an ancestor is “any person from whom one is descended. In law the person from whom an estate has been inherited.”
Beautiful, just beautiful. Thanks for sharing; I love your writing. You are inspiring me to a begin a personal improvement summer project of beginning a blog of my own- only to be shared with my children though I think for now…..