On holidays I hear from Paul,
who’s 80 if a day, who may
have won his war on poverty
without help from his friends.
He won’t accept a cent.
When he calls, he talks about
the poor, what he says they
must do to get through life.
This time, though, Paul,
a bachelor, wants to talk
about love, what parents
have to do with it.
He says the only physical sign
of love his parents offered was
his mother’s hand on his cheek.
She never said a thing but as
a child her touch nurtured him.
Tears would fill her eyes
followed by a rare smile.
No hugs or kisses but he
never had to wonder why.
She had substance if not style.
Near the end of life Paul would
like to feel her touch once more,
says love between parent and child
is as perfect as love can be.
Forty years ago Paul buried his father
who told him just once, no more,
after a six pack that he loved him.
He says his father worked two jobs
eight hours each, that said it all.
I listen to Paul whenever he calls,
agree with him when I can, stay
silent when I can’t because I know
his scars run deeper than mine.
I’d never tell him my parents were
icicles compared with his but they
too worked just as hard for me.