Song of the South: Once Upon a Time

I write a few days after my 37th birthday.  I found this poem I wrote on my 35th birthday, a little after my late wife’s first big stroke from the neurological condition that took her life last year.  I hope it resonates in a healing way to some of you also going through change and loss.

Your progressive redneck preacher,




Once Upon a Time

When I was a child

I imagined growing up to be having all the answers

After all, as a child of teachers

I was never punished

For asking questions

But each time mom and dad had the answer.


I imagined growing up as freedom,

Freedom to stay up all night,

Freedom to buy a car,

Freedom to own a house,

Freedom to have no one tell me what to do.


I imagined having the dream job,

A house shrouded by pecan trees

Beside a lake stocked with fish.

I imagined having strength & wisdom

So I, like they, knew the answers

While my hands, like daddy’s, could fix anything.


How could I have known growing up meant, often,

Facing up to weakness,

Realizing I might never be all I dreamed possible,

At times learning to accept what I could do

Together with what I could not,

Finding joy in it instead.


How could I have known growing up was often

Not doing what I wanted

But what was necessary

To pay bills,

To care for those I love,

To listen to the voice of my conscience,

However painful.


How could I have known growing up meant

Facing loss,

Facing a table

That in college was surrounded

By me and three friends

Two of whom died suddenly

And without warning.

I never knew growing up

Meant facing that empty table

That leaves holes in my heart

And my world

Which can never again be filled.


I could not know growing up meant not just a home

But facing the possibility

It too might be empty,

A possibility that fell as suddenly

As the shadow from some unexpected summer stormcloud

At my wife’s stroke.


I never knew growing up

Meant living in the light of the fact

We might not have tomorrow.


I never knew growing up

Meant, all too often,

Not knowing the answer

And maybe facing

Unanswerable questions

And moments with no good outcome.


Hardest of all,

I never would have known

Growing up would mean

Idols shattering,

Masks falling

So I saw

They never knew the answers either

My parents, teachers, and heroes

Too were simply finding their way.


If I had, I might have kept to the legoes,

The Lincoln logs,

The comic books & crayons.


One thought on “Song of the South: Once Upon a Time

  1. Janet says:

    Wow that is an awesome poem! So powerful! Thanks for sharing it and I hope you continue to heal.

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