Father's Day June 19, 1988

I try to hide my irritation when

my father greets me at the door

wearing the blue shirt and slacks

my sister sent from San Francisco

instead of waiting for me to arrive

before opening the package.

He’s 81, and in his second childhood,

my mother, who was six years younger

would remind me, but my father

never grew up. Before it was time

to open our Christmas presents,

he’d play the game, What’s in the Box?

Pick up one of our presents and say,

I think it’s a doll, spoiling the surprise

and try to convince us to tell him

what we got him for Christmas.

Always the practical child, I hand

him my unwrapped presents

tied with a bow: a carton of Camels,

a box of chocolates and a bottle

of Tylenol to ease his headaches.

If I could replay that day, I wouldn’t

have just gave him gifts and left.

I would have instead hugged him,

kissed his cheek, told him I loved

him and that he was a good father

and asked him to forgive me

for being suspicious and ashamed of him

when I smelled whiskey on his breath.

But even if I knew then what I know now-

that would be his last Father’s Day -

I couldn’t say those words I love you

and forgive me because he never said

that to me but I always knew and he did too.

Originally published in My Grandfather is a Cowboy.

Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published eleven poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields (Flutter Press 2014,) What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob (Kelsay Books 2021) and Survivors, Saints and Sinners (Cyberwit 2022,) Kiddos & Mamas Do the Darndest Things (Cyberwit 2022,) The Vultures are Circling (Cyberwit 2023) and The Leading Ladies in My Life (Cyberwit June 2023.) Her twelfth collection, My Grandfather is a Cowboy is forthcoming from Cyberwit in 2024..Her work has also appeared in Poetry Breakfast, Autumn Sky Poetry Review, Poetry Hunger X,  Lothlorien, GAS Poetry, Art and Music, The Rye Whiskey Review, Black Coffee Review,  ONE ART,  Mad Swirl, The Drabble, Gleam,  Muddy River Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review, Beatnik Cowboy, The Five-Two, Impspired and others.