being right isn’t everything (a poem)

Growing up, I thought being right

meant getting my way.  It never occurred to me to be otherwise.

My father always won, so it took a long time to learn my father might not win.

When I finally let go of my ideas and the argument was over,

there would be peace and quiet — at least for a little while.

My father

was one of those people for whom to be right was his last breath,

his complete and final concept of himself.  It gave his life meaning.

I wonder what was done to him?

What terrible memory dogged and rattled him?   What was he afraid would happen if he stopped

for just a minute? Something was chasing him all my life and years and years before

commitments, kids and a wife entered in.

When they told him he was dying I thought

finally!   He might stop running.   And all the trips to help

with doctors and medicines, the chemo and radiation that stole his energy

and memories,

that stole my name, still

cancer gave me the gift of sitting, finally time to simply be

with him.  But rather than rest, accepting

he had mere months to live

he still thought he could win.  What was he thinking?  In those last days

the cancer broke him.

Finally, something got the best of all his striving, his knowing.  Being right.

Whatever it was that chased and tortured him — I will never know.

I thought being right would feel better than this.

Perhaps that is why he died still believing

he would live.

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