31 Jul

Returning tide

I don’t know how things were back then, but I like believing when they lifted me from the warm sea of my mother’s body, they tucked me right into your arms. I like thinking there was a small window of happiness for you and mother, before the tide turned and she slipped away.

I was born in Houston, a city tucked between two rivers and Galveston Bay. My earliest memories are of running to keep up with you in the foaming surf and you swinging me up high to ride in the crook of your arm when the big waves came.

I learned the art of storytelling listening to tall Texas tales while you shaved each morning. I smeared shaving cream on your face, molding it into peaks and valleys, a whitecap ocean for your razor to ride. Your stories always ended on a hook as you splashed after shave, the scent of citrus and cedar riding currents of moist air. We were both too young to envision a day when you couldn’t shave yourself.

Galveston was one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar, not because I liked it. I practiced for weeks as a birthday present to you, because you said it brought back memories of walking that beach with Mother. I didn’t know then that a song could unreel memories like a movie on a screen, breathe life into the past, make it vivid enough to burn — like a stitch in your side.

My memories unwind: you buckling me into an orange Mae West, me clinging tight to the splintery sides of a rowboat, watching you lean into the weight of wooden oars, the creak of metal oar locks, the chop and slap of the bay against the hull, the wind ruffling your hair like water, the first silver glistening like whitecaps on your curls. You loved watching birds in the wetlands, whispering their names, your voice reverent as if each was a prayer.

Losing you was a punch I saw coming from a long way off and it still knocked me flat. When grief shriveled me, I took to the water. I whispered the names of the birds when they took to the sky: blue heron, egret, osprey, eagle, king fisher. It wasn’t the same without you.

The shoreline changes with every turn of the tide. One heartbeat fades into silence and a new heart picks up the tick of life. One winter carried you away and the next brought a new baby.

I don’t know what it’s like where you are. If you are. But I like to believe you watched when I first held your namesake, when I pressed my nose to downy hair, nuzzled a small cheek soft as breath. I like to think you were with us when, for just a moment, time turned back like the tide–the scent of citrus and cedar rode the air, and I heard waves kissing the shore in Galveston.

Happy birthday, Daddy.


The theme for this week’s poetry potluck is: love and it’s not being there. While this isn’t so much about lovers, it’s about finding healing and peace after losing someone important. It’s still a work in progress. You can see what others have contributed to Poetry Potluck here.


20 Responses to “Tides”

  1. Life: Between the lines July 31, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    😦 touching sad, but I love the line how the shore changes with the tides, well done 🙂
    enjoy the potluck!!!

    • Nara Malone August 1, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

      Thanks. This is my first potluck and I’m liking the company here.

  2. luna15 July 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    *sniff sniff* I am soon to loose my mother and i just cant stand the thought. this was wonderful and i am sure he was and knows just how much you miss him.

    • Nara Malone August 1, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

      Hugs, Luna. Sorry about your mom. I know that’s rough.

  3. Kellie Elmore July 31, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    Oh I have found another southerner! 🙂 love your writing…its emotion and heart. Just what I love to read! I will visit again soon!

    • Nara Malone August 1, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

      Hey, Kellie. Glad to see another southern girl here. I like reading the emotional stuff too.

  4. booguloo August 1, 2011 at 12:09 am #

    A sad tale of passing the torch. Very touching.

    • Nara Malone August 1, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

      Thanks for dropping in booguloo. In a way, passing the torch began the healing.

  5. Kay Salady August 1, 2011 at 4:34 am #

    Tears for your Daddy and blessings to you. A very beautiful write. Thank you.

    • Nara Malone August 1, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

      Thank you, Kay. I know he’s not suffering anymore and that is a comfort.

  6. Daydreamertoo August 1, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Such a wonderful bond of love you and your father shared. Although you no longer see his physical body he has never left you and, you can bet he has touched the cheek of his namesake with a kiss on the breeze many, many times, as indeed he will still touch yours.

    This is such lovely writing. Gentle, filled with loving memories and, pieces of your heart and soul.
    I’m almost tempted to tip toe off the page.

    • Nara Malone August 1, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

      Thanks, Bren. Hug. Writing about him is one of the ways I keep him with me.

  7. charlesmashburn August 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Absolutely beautiful writing. You have a wonderful story-tellers voice–I’m going to guess you learned it from your dad. The love that flows from you onto the page is real and it shows in every heartfelt line.

    • Nara Malone August 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

      Thank you, Charles. I should be so lucky to tell stories as well as he did 🙂 I think I may have a touch of his Texas drawl too, don’t know that it shows on the page. Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. Daydreamertoo August 1, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    Did you see the tweets I sent you on the Sunday whirl?
    I also tweeted this post to my followers … 🙂

    • naramalone August 1, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

      I retweeted a TY to you. Thanks for sharing this with your followers. I saw the tweet with links to Sunday Whirl and COT. I knew about Carry on Tuesday but not the other. I’ll have to try that one. Thanks for the tips. Hug

      Sent from my iPad

  9. Alice Audrey August 1, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    I love the way you unravel the memory in waves.

  10. Shashi August 2, 2011 at 5:10 am #

    Dear Nara

    A lovely read… and wish your dad happy birthday too…

    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya

  11. Talon August 2, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    I’m sorry you lost your father, Nora, and sorry he never got to meet his namesake though the new life does confirm the circles of life, doesn’t it – how they overlap and converge.

    Their absence leaves holes in our hearts, don’t they? But we fill them with the memories and it helps a little. My father passed away 11 years ago and I miss him everyday.

  12. Jingle August 2, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    peace and love, …sorry for the loss of your Dad.

    lovely blog, welcome to JP.

    Happy Potluck!

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