I wrote this post over a year and a half ago. I am reposting it today in honor of a friend’s father who passed away this weekend. David, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

When we are infants they are giants to us. Booming voices that echo around the periphery of our Mother’s world. We come to learn their smiles, and their laughter, and the feel of their rough hands.

When we are toddlers they are the kings of the world. All knowing, and all powerful. They can swing us over their heads, and make us laugh like no other. As we grow we come to learn their place as Atlas, holding up our world upon their backs. They are gone from us more often than Mom, but we learn to listen for the sound of their car in the driveway. We become aware that there is something hard in their world that takes place when they are gone, even if we can’t understand it. We see the exhaustion and the pain slip out when they are too tired to hold it in. We become little weathermen, reading the moods that blow like weather systems across the map of their face.

They teach us not with words, but with action. How to start a lawn mower, handle a tool, drive a car. They are the silent owners of the mechanical world, masters of a knowledge that isn’t taught in school. We are in awe of their ability to restore everything to wholeness.

Once we become teenagers we see that they are human, and we never forgive them for it.

As we ourselves age, they become part of the background of the family. Like the house, and the car, and the great edifices upon which the history of the family is acted out. They become an anachronism, a source of laughter for the way they dress, talk, and act. Men out of time, in an age they no longer understand. We begin to see their frailties. We roll our eyes and sigh.

Then they begin to appear like ghosts in the mirror. We catch glimpse of them in the corner of our eyes. Slowly we come to understand what it must have been like. We find a new appreciation for the sacrifices that they made, that we never knew, because they never once complained. If we are lucky, we have time to say thank you before they are gone.

All too soon, they are gone, and we are left with a face in the mirror that conjures up memories. So we smile through the tears at the memories, and dig deep within us to live up to the example that they set before us when we weren’t looking, like granite monuments to inspire us. We hope that somewhere they can see us, and know. And we pick up their shop worn tools, close our eyes, and using our memory of those strong hands, we set to work chiseling out our own monument.

16 thoughts on “Monuments

    • Tom,

      That was beautiful. I must have missed it the first time around. I’m glad you re-posted it.

      We were all blessed to have been raised by hard working men of integrity and solid values. I hope we can live up to the legacy left to us by George Gahr, Patsy Strollo, Bill Sutherland, Nick Borrelli and the other great men that just happened to be someone elses “old man”. RIP Mr. Strollo.

      I’ll see Dave tonight and give him your best.


      PS – you were an awesome split end, but I think you’re a better writer.

  1. No matter the age it’s never easy when a parent passes. Your friend is lucky to have you in his life.

    And we pick up their shop worn tools, close our eyes, and using our memory of those strong hands, we set to work chiseling out our own monument.

    Beautiful and so true.

  2. I am very sorry for your friend David’s loss.

    Tom, this one hands down is my new favorite. Thank you for this. Really. I have been worried about the relationship between my guys: the relationship between fathers and daughters that I understand is so different from this. I am going to show your post to them.

    Like Kelly, I can’t say anything more to do it justice. Well, actually I could. Have you thought about submitting it somewhere? For instance, as a devout listener of NPR, I would fully expect something of this caliber on “This I Believe”. Yes, I may need to pull over so I can bawl my eyes out but I’d be happy that they did it.

  3. Tom,

    I saw this post a couple of days and now I finally feel like I can respond. Prior to this, my tears would have flooded the keyboard.

    First, thank you for reposting your beautiful piece of poetry. I am touched by your thoughtfulness and it will never be forgotten.

    Second, me and my family truly appreciate the flowers. A very nice gesture – thank you.

    There is a lot that I can write and share with respect to my father, his life and the way he lived. I will not go into great detail, but I will share that I am reminded once again (and reminded more powerfully now that he is gone) about how he lived and the positive lessons to be learned. I will miss him.

    Lastly, I agree with Jim’s comments about our fathers and also your skills – split-end v. writing.

    All the best,


    • David,

      Hang in there. I’d like to say you get over it, but I’d be lying. I still feel the hole there in my heart, but it also reminds me of the example that Dad left, and spurs me to try to live up to it. Dig deep, and lean on Judy. You will get through it, and someday we’ll have some great stories to tell them when we see them all again. I’m buying the first round.


      PS – HEY! What’s up with you and Jimmy? I wasn’t exactly a slouch at split end!

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