Tag Archives: family

Non-parental events


Words pound through hot pulsed air
and bile rises everywhere:
Who I am is not who I was—alleles do not lie.
Unlike parents and siblings who did and do
and then, “like that” steal away.

No, even that’s not right,
it’s the words themselves who’ve moved
and mean less and say more than ever they did before.
Even I have shifted—I thought I was me,
but now that our swabs have told their tale
my skin is never going to feel right again.
Because it’s not just, Who am I?
it’s, Who are you?

NPE’s (non-paternity events, or more familiarly, non-paternal or non-parent events) are, for some people, a growing issue: they and their siblings submit their DNA to one of the many “Discover-Your-Ancestry” companies and the results are shocking: they find out that they are only half-siblings, or worse yet, no physical relation at all to the family they grew up with. In some cases the parents have died and no explanation can be had. In others, parents are unwilling to discuss the issue, or, when they do, it is at best a cover up, at worse a sordid story. In the worst scenario, some family members have turned on their half-siblings for “being hurtful.” As if who you are is of no consequence—which it is not, to those certain of the answer.

If you are affected by this situation, there is a Facebook group: “DNA surprise support group.” Check it out.

By the way, these Discover-Your-Ancestry DNA kit companies are scientific frauds. While accurate enough for identifying close familial relationships, tests run for identical twins often have huge differences in who their ancestors are said to be; nor will two different companies give similar results; nor will any company yield the same ancestry on two different tests for the same person. For a scientific rationale on why this “ancestry” approach to DNA analysis is bogus, check out Adam Rutherford’s A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived. Highly recommended. I enjoyed it immensely.

Thank you for reading Non-parental events. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in on my way to work one sunny morning after an ice storm. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Christmas 2 a.m.



There, in the glow of the tree,
near the stockings hung with care
and under the mistletoe, we float,
all of us, ghosts in the air,
swaying to the carols
in our long-gone everywhere,
voices-over-voices away…

And all the aches are abated,
and all the doubts are done,
and all of it matters no more
because it all will soon be gone.
So dance/just dance,
let us swirl this one more time,
for here, for now, for there, for when,
it is enough. Just dance/just dance.
I will.


I love the Holiday season and have very fond memories of family and friends from over the years. This year is no exception and, in fact, will be particularly special: for the first time in over 30 years, we will be celebrating it with my wonderful and beloved sister and brother-in-law.

To all my friends out there who are gracious enough to spend moments of your precious time reading my poetry, thank you, and no matter what your background is, or country of origin, or religion, may God bless you and the light of unity and peace shine on you and yours now, and forever. As Tiny Tim said (in imitation Cockney accent if you can), God bless us, every one!

See you sometime in 2019…

For other, previous Holidays poetry, may I suggest:

Holiday traditions

Until we’re all together again

Seasons (by Tierney Tolar)

Thank you for reading Christmas 2 a.m. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at Old Sturbridge Village, a living museum of the 1850’s in Massachusetts. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Linger a while—thou art so fair!


She wants to reach out, pick up the phone and call,
talk some and remember, laugh, cry and share.
She wants to turn it all back and remember the little things
that were the big things, and wonders if even now
they can still go there as can she. It’s not easy, or fair—
that’s life—but at least it could be together.

Paradoxically, she also wants to forget, to hold onto
what was her mom and not the hag she’s become,
but God, it is so very, very hard! And it’s late, and she’s tired,
and that phone just sits there, not ringing—no, never that—
but still, keeping her up with its infinite, sweet choices,
even though none of them, she suspects, is hope.

I love the title of this poem, even if I have taken it out of context. About the poem I will say no more, having said more of the story than I probably ought. But about the title…

Verweile doch! Du bist so schön! from Göthe’s Faust, is probably the most well-known and often quoted line in German literature. That 19th-century play deals with the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil for worldly gain. This passage, translated as Linger a while—thou art so fair! comes from the scene where Faust is sealing the deal and confirming that if ever he has a moment that is sublime and lingering, then at that instant the pact is complete and he will die and go to hell for eternity.

The full passage is:

Werd ich zum Augenblicke sagen:
Verweile doch! Du bist so schön!
Dann magst du mich in Fesseln schlagen,
dann will ich gern zu grunde gehen!

One translation is:

When I say to the Moment flying;
‘Linger a while—thou art so fair!’
Then bind me in thy bonds undying,
And my final ruin I will bear!

But that key line has many other interpretations, all of which I love:

Beautiful moment, do not pass away!

‘Ah, stay a while! You are so lovely!’

Do stay with me, thou art so beautiful!

And many, many more.

Thank you for reading Linger a while—thou art so fair! I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken last fall in our hometown of Putnam, CT on an early morning walk. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Holiday traditions

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My sister confided in me that when we were kids
she never really liked Christmas. It always meant
too much scrubbing and bustle, too much cooking,
too big a mess to be got into and then cleaned up after.
The hardwood floors needed to be stripped and waxed
and every nook and cranny got into and cleaned out—
you never know when the priest could drop in (although
truth be known, all that needed was a good liquor cabinet.)
The decorations had to be pulled out, sorted out and put up,
and every one of grandmother’s dishes and glasses got at,
washed, used, and one (by me, of course, it was always me)
broken each year. And that was just the preparations.

I have grandchildren the age we were then, but when I speak to her,
I am always, again, that baby boy of the family—I never knew,
I never realized. Being younger (and dodgier) on Christmas Day
I was useless, as was our dad, who was exhausted and drunk by noon.
So my memory is different: fun yes, but depressed afterward,
the buildup over, the presents opened, the house put away
and everyone down for a nap, just me awake, wondering
where mom had hidden the chocolates. I still miss those,
even now, when I know just how much they cost.

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My sister tells me that my mother’s favorite chocolates were Quality Street. It is a question of some debate in our family as to which came first: whether mom was forced to hide them because I would seek them out where ever they were hidden, or whether I had to take to hunting them because mom had secreted them away. It did not matter, though, since ours was a small house and I knew all of her favorite hiding spots.

The photograph was taken of a barn door on a small farm in Pomfret, CT. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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For Phil’s dad

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Sitting in the chair
Replacing death with hope
A chemo I.V.

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Phil Wilke is a dear friend of mine from when I lived in Kansas. And while, sadly, my move to New England has put much mileage between us, no distance has grown to separate us…he is still as dear to me now as he was then.

Phil is wonderfully intelligent, wise, kind, generous and one of the funniest people I have ever met. It was with great sadness that I learned from him recently that his father was ill with cancer. (In fact, I wrote The long wait after hearing about it.)

Although Phil is a journalist and a great prose writer, he has used the terseness of haiku to express himself during the difficult times his family is facing. I am honored to share one of these haiku  with you. I hope you like it and I look forward to your comments.

john

Comments © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. Poem © 2014 by Phil Wilke; all rights reserved. Oddly enough—for me, anyway—it is used by permission of the author.

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The rest is not silence

The greatest jolt that one can bear is the sound of dirt
hitting the casket lid. It lingers long on the air,
echoing the heart’s crescendo and tripping the breath’s staccato.

Listen:
the melody of a life is never sung complete or only in one key,
the end beats are seldom, if ever, in rhythm
and the harmony can be discordant to a degree.
That is why it is left to the rest stops—those blessed little spaces,
those tiny, magical pauses between the major and minor shifts—
where a life beat is best measured and heard aright.
Music is about silence, as death is about life,
or at least, that is what I heard sung that day.

This poem was written for the daughter of very dear friends, who, after a long battle with addiction, lost that fight. She was a dear soul, a generous, kindhearted person and a loving mother, who, like many people caught in her situation, seemed unable to stop or dull an ache that just wouldn’t quit or be denied.

I remember her funeral well. Her mother had written a eulogy that she asked my wife to read on her behalf. It started off, “I remember the first time I looked into your eyes,” and a few minutes later, after recalling many happy and warm times, there was not a dry eye in the room. But when it got to the end and she recalled looking into her daughter’s eyes that very last time as she prepared the body for burial, everyone was bawling. When my wife got back to our seat I asked her how she got through it without breaking down, because I know I couldn’t have done it. “I have no idea,” she said, “Some power came over me to help me.” It was later when she cried.

Reading this you’d think that the entire day was pure tragedy, and I don’t deny that it was sad.  But after reflection it is a sense of redemption that I carry with me now, because that day was also heartwarming. A beloved child, a dear sister, a loving mother was dead; but she was also honored and loved, and that honor and love was poured out in such abundance that day that there was also—or at least there was for me—a sense of understanding, of closure and of letting go with dignity.

Thank you for reading The rest is not silence. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

– 2012.12.01

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There

This do I know:
that there on that spot,
on that blessed, sweet spot,
on that spot of perfect, constant submission—
there she stands, and alone does she stand,
seen only by those who know her.
Of her, by her, due her—does she.

As I noted in Lucinda, the second Lenora, the original of that poem I cut into two poems and promised that when I next posted I would post that second poem.

There is that second poem and it is only about, and is all about, her, my wonderful, loving and generous sister.

Thank you for reading There. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Tierney Tolar’s “Seasons”

My favorite season is winter and summer.
I like those two seasons because
summer is where you can do anything
and winter is where you can
build a snowman
and you can get into a snowball fight.

Having the greatest family

I’m having the greatest time of my life
and the greatest year, the funnest week ever
with grandma and grandpa and aunt Sasha
and my sisters and brother and parents.
I have the sweetest family ever.
Everyone cares about each other
and everyone even loves each other.
Family is important too.

Christmas trees

Christmas trees are fun to put ornaments on
(and lights of course)
and it’s pretty when you turn the lights on.
Christmas trees are to put presents under.
You can put the Christmas tree anywhere you want to.
I’m following Santa Claus tonight.
Santa is watching you…he loves cookies.

Cupcakes

It’s fun when you make cupcakes.
They are yummy, they are fun and they are cute
if you decorate them.
It’s just fun.
You can decorate them however you like
and you can even make a background too.
If you want.

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I get to introduce you to a singular, new and powerful voice in the world of poetry: my granddaughter, 8 year old Tierney. We, Tierney and I, but also her grandmother, father, mother, aunt, brother and sisters are together this Christmas.

Thank you for reading Seasons and all of Tierney’s poems. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed them and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2012 by Tierney Tolar; all rights reserved. These poems and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Until we’re all together again

I want a Christmas with my mom and dad
and sister home from school.
I want to go out and cut down a tree
and argue, once again, about putting up the decorations
because—good Lord!—who can ever get enough of that?
I want to go buy the presents that I’ve worried over
and dithered over and saved over and agonized over
(and then agonized some more)
until I glow with the knowledge that each is perfect
and is exactly what they wanted, or needed,
or will at least say so once opened.
But before the new clothes at midnight,
and the cold and the choir and the Mass,
before cracking open the Gordon’s Dry Gin
(to get the good children to go to sleep)
I want to wait, just wait in the darkness
and sit there, looking at the lights
and listening to my mom’s favorite carols,
letting it all float around me
just as it did those many years ago…
every mayhem filled, loud, laughing, wrapping,
poking, hiding, opening, crying, cooking, praying,
yelling (and of course yelling back)
drinking, eating, talking, card playing and arguing
moment of it, joyfully, once more.

I wrote this poem in 2012 as a present to my sister, Cindy, and my father, Jack. Alas, my mother, May, is passed on and is no longer with us.

Christmas was a magical time for my family. What I wanted to capture was the joy and love that I grew up with. Our house was always chaotic but also a place of refuge, security and love. I no longer remember many of the presents that I received back then, but I will always remember the joy of being together.

Everything in the poem, is true: my sister and I arguing over putting up decorations, agonizing over getting the ‘perfect’ gifts, going to midnight mass and singing in the choir, coming home and opening the gin to make a pitcher of Tom Collins, a gin based-drink. For my sister and me it was made sweet and mild, just strong enough to calm excited children down. I was married with children before I realized the purpose of that drink was my parent’s sneaky way of getting us into bed!

But it is the music of the season and the lights on the tree that I remember the most. Well, that and being together. That’s no longer always possible but it is always the best thing I remember in my young life.

Thank you for reading Until we’re all together again. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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