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My old man wasn't necessarily old, just older than me. So I called him Old Man. He would drive truck from Mid-Michigan to White River Canada three times a week, Weather permitting. Or not. When my yard was flooded, he would put on his waders just to come pay me a visit. And all I had to offer him was strong coffee in an old china cup, And coffee talk. Coffee talk, about public radio, And his latest blues album, And the moose. The truck busting moose. When I went hunting or fishing with my old man, it always started with the picture in his head, The grandiose, romantic picture in his head. When the picture became a reality, I was amazed. And when the picture failed to become a reality, I was amazed At his ability to enjoy the new picture. I only saw my old man on the weekends. But two or three times a week, in the middle of the night I would wake up to the Jake Brake and the air horn Shattering the crisp silence of Grand Valley, And I knew my old man was thinking about me. My old man got the most joy from putting on a good dinner For the friend who just did two years, From seeing the reformed drug addict finally get a good job, Seeing the inner-city dweller save enough to move his family to the country, And from seeing the novice writer get published for the first time. My old man couldn't understand why he had bad thoughts. Why, while watching the Pope at Christmas, was he thinking about running through the Vatican like a fullback and snatching up the porcelain baby Jesus? Why? I told him we all have bad thoughts. I didn't choose to know my old man, and I can't choose to stop knowing him. So I guess he wasn't my old man to start with. Someone just gave him to me to use and enjoy for awhile, And then took him back where he belongs. I realize now when I get the next "old man" I'll appreciate him even more, Because he won't be mine to have, he'll be a temporary gift from the Giver.
About the author:
I used to live on the lower Grand River in Michigan right across from Grand Valley State University. The 'house' was a 125 year-old shotgun shack that still stands today. The river would flood out the yard in spring and fall. Charlie Bowles lived there prior to my moving in and had great stories about the place.