You were eight when I first met you,
Several years older when I first remember noticing you.
Not the voices, but the background noises I recall first:
Handel’s Messiah as I drifted to sleep,
The beep, beep, beep, of the V.O.K. reading the news.
Then the voices half-understood:
Greeting the neighbours across the fence
with words of welcome;
A full report of the morning’s events
at the lunch table, first names scattered haphazard;
and the sustained, barely audible, hum of reading and prayer—nourishing life.
Not words alone, but laughter, and tears too, nurtured my childhood.
A solitary tear runs down her cheek as I walk backwards, wave and turn,
In fitful sobs, they fall too, reminding me that this is Adam, both new and old,
yearning for yield.
I watched you grow in the lives of your children.
God knows the tears and sweat, the toil and prayer
That feed the sometimes seeming barren soil of ministry.
God knows the names of lives touched and others trained,
That fruit borne of life together:
Not stale or stagnant,
Not shrinking into hardness like a withered citron,
You model—as I watch you growing into wisdom,
growing into love.
I wrote this four years ago for my parents' 40th wedding anniversary.