Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Late Child…by Robert M. Katzman

 

by Robert M. Katzman / Copyright July 31, 2016

 Forward

 Written under a hot July sun while sitting alone on a bench in Chicago’s Hyde Park landmark, The Point, a rocky stepped-stone park projecting into Lake Michigan. A long favorite place for swimmers, sunbathers and photographers located about two miles east of the world famous (and still standing) University of Chicago (1890-   ), and also about one mile east of the once slightly famous (and now non-existent) Bob’s Newsstand (1965-1985).

I was there waiting to meet an unknown number of much younger people who might possibly recognize a much older me as the guy who sold them lots of candy, and who might assume I still remember them as my customers when they were fourteen and went to Kenwood High School across the street from my first wooden and later brick newsstand, over thirty years ago. Both situations seemed unlikely and as a result encouraged me to finally write down the following poem I’d been carrying around in my head and heart for months.

But, in fact, I did recognize some of their faces after all, since we seem to age unevenly. And a fair number of the now middle-aged parents with children generally recognized me.

 

Late Child is more or less true, an exception for me since my normal pattern is to strictly stick to a story’s actual facts. But I respect privacy and promised myself years ago—about my writing—to “do no harm”, even if what I leave out would make a much better story. I can live with that.

The idea behind writing this difficult story is the curse of the unavoidable consequences of surrendering one’s heart to compassion. This is not about good or bad. Not about kind or cruel. Essentially, Late Child is about the tyranny of time. I hope after you read it, if you are sincerely moved to write to me about it, well, there’s space to do that below the poem on this site. I read a lot of my work at different places in public, but not this one. Never this one. Finally, there is a subtle evolution of involvement that occurs in my poem. Some of you may catch it, most not.

 

 Late Child

 

“I want her”

Said the sixty-year-old wife

“We are too old”

Said her sixty-year-old husband

“I need her”

Pleaded his wife

We will be ancient when she is twenty”

Responded her husband

“I love her”

Beseeched his wife

“What can I do?”

 

And her husband was silent

What else could he do?

 

So the Late Child entered their lives

 

 

The couple guided her

With words

Having no energy left

For sports, for camping

For Disneyland

 

But as the years passed

And the Late Child grew older

They both offered her understanding

Together, a century of experience

Answering questions she hadn’t asked yet

Racing to make their Late Child wise

 

At first confusing to her…

Her friends liked Harry potter

Her parents explained World War One

Told her friendship is the real magic

Her friends liked Hip Hop and Rap

Her parents offered Sinatra and Astaire

The Maltese Falcon and Citizen Kane

 

Her girl friends discovered boys

Her parents explained long marriages

Her friends went to Great America

And shopping at the Malls

Her parents advised, one day,

She explore

Architecture in Europe

Waterfalls in Iceland

 

Her parents saw all her school plays

Then took her to see

Beckett and Shakespeare

Guys ‘n Dolls and David Mamet

Late Child gradually understood

Her parents were

Very Very Different

 

Her parents read all her school essays

Then bought her

Webster’s International Dictionary

“Learn to use a wider range of words”

They suggested

“Maybe this reference will help you with that”

And Late Child stared

At the forty-pound book

 

Their hair turning silver

They told her of a thousand years of hate

Between Christians, Moslems and Jews

And suggested when she went to college

She study ways to try and stop all that

 

Mother was now in a wheelchair

She urgently told Late Child that

A woman could be anything

Go anywhere, do anything

And to never settle for less

And:

“Let no man strike you, ever.

Men like that are poison

But you, Late Child, are gold”

 

One day her Father sat Late Child down

Said her Mother had cancer

“But I want her to know my children!”

Cried the girl

As their tears flowed freely between them

 

Once walking together in a busy grocery

Late Child asked if Mother was getting better

Father replied, voice quavering

“Sometimes we fall asleep, holding hands…”

And Late Child embraced him

In the frozen food aisle

 

One day Mother told Late Child

Her Father’s heart was failing

“But I need him to answer so many questions!”

Shrieked the girl

And their tears flowed freely between them

 

When Late Child turned twenty

Her parents told her that

Their time with her was nearly up

But that they would never leave her

Her Father pointed to a distant hill

“Why, we’ll be right over there,

Just out of sight”

 

They had left their daughter

Well-armed with

A questioning mind

A sense of priorities

A deep comprehension of

The world as it really was

Ready to challenge

Whatever life threw her way

 

But with

Swiftly and Relentlessly

Indifferent Time

Now stepping between

Her parents and

Late Child’s open arms

She could only embrace the air

 

And as their bodies began to fade

Her Mother said,

“We loved her

What else could we do?”

 

Blending into the horizon with her

Her Father replied,

“Yes, Mother

What else could we do?”

 

 

I retired from selling antique magazines, after 54 years, and am currently organizing two thousand pages of stories and poetry into an autobiography in a (possibly) more coherent way. Also to record the stories in my own voice. Perhaps some interested party out there wants to discuss that objective with me? I’m seeking an agent to become better known as a writer and storyteller.

 

I’m available for hire to read my poetry and short stories in the Chicago and Milwaukee metro area. robertmkatzman@gmail.com is one way to contact me.

Comments about all my non-fiction stories and poetry are welcome.

 

 

 

11 Comments »

Comment by Don Larson

August 2, 2016 @ 11:40 am

Bob,

An excellent poem of the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom and the divine desire to transfer via love to another.

We all have limits. Some folks increase theirs as they may.

Don

Comment by newman from newark

August 2, 2016 @ 3:33 pm

bullseye…as usual…Bob

Comment by Tory Shade

August 2, 2016 @ 8:24 pm

Your writing was, as usual, very moving. The poem led my mind off in several different directions of fantasy and reality of what night have been. The late child was so very fortunate.

Comment by Brad Dechter

August 3, 2016 @ 2:29 pm

Bob,
In our sunset years you have helped give us all perspective on what is good and right. You also leave me grateful to you and for my life by giving me added insight.
Thanks- damned good work!
Brad

Comment by eileen schroeder

August 6, 2016 @ 6:09 am

July 31st was my maternal grandmother’s birthday…she like your character came from another time and made a deep impression on my soul…so I could relate.

Comment by Helene

August 7, 2016 @ 9:08 pm

I am a late child. Twice. My birth father and adoptive father both late 40″s. I was destined to have older parents either way. Late children are loved in a special way. And that love lives on forever.

Comment by Melanie Bohl

August 24, 2016 @ 7:21 pm

What a beautiful story of boundless love.

Comment by David Griesemer

August 26, 2016 @ 1:14 pm

Great opening dialog with Joy. Reminds you of Tevye, arguing with his daughters. Lately, holding down three jobs and other problems have drained the life out of me. I yearn to blend into the horizon. To surrender. Here, Bob makes me ashamed of my quit. Too much loving left to do.

Comment by Brad Dechter

September 5, 2017 @ 4:41 am

My previous comment stands.
Good on Ya!
Brad

Comment by Astri Lindberg

September 5, 2017 @ 8:31 am

Another absolutely beautiful and recognizable poem. Thank you, Bob. Late child is a fortunate person to have had such loving parents.
: ) Astri

Comment by Jim Payne

September 7, 2017 @ 5:36 pm

Touching.

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