Thursday, 15 August 2013

graveyard shift revisited

the beige good-bye
of the usual wimpy embrace –
in the usual spits of rain . . .
as I had come to expect.

long ago:
he had recounted
a childhood memory, to me:

late at night
his mother would lay out a small supper
and then wake his dad
who came to the table,
rumpled with sleep.
he’d eat and pull on his overcoat and boots
and hug him good-bye
and walk away into the darkness and cold and snow
to go work the graveyard shift,
at the local mill.

night after night
he’d run to the window
filled with the ache
of unshed tears for his father
choking on the bitter pill of childhood:
being too little, to take a grown up’s place.

long ago he told me,
he wasn’t much good at good-byes –

though in my heart I know,
his empathy
has made it so. 
photo:  Snowy Sidewalk – W. Bourke 

© 2013 Wendy Bourke


  1. I'm not much good at good-byes either. Great wording: "beige good-bye."

    You're quite the storyteller. I enjoyed this.

  2. Thank you. I was very touched by this story when it was first shared and, years later, still find it very moving. I think a lot of children, at one time or order, feel sorry that a parent has to carry a heavy load and guilty knowing it is done (at least in part) for them.

  3. Oh this is so felt Wendy. Thanks for sharing this. You are a wonderful story teller! I bet your kids and grandkids would agree!

  4. Thanks, Jennifer. I remember, as a child, my mother would often take me to the local graveyard when she tended to the flower beds in front of the various family stones. Always appalled, when we'd come across a patch that looked poorly maintained, she'd remark: it looks, for all the world, like this family doesn't care about our loved ones. (As clearly, the world was keenly interested in the state of our family graves.) You might think . . . how depressing. But actually, these visits were fascinating. Every stone, every marker held a plethora of stories - story upon story about people in my family. I don't know if I'm a wonderful story teller. But if I'm any good at all, my mother spent many hours teaching me what makes a story good.