Meeting my Father-in-Law
Yesterday would have been my Father-in-Law Donald Malcolm’s 90th birthday, what a man. Here is the poem I wrote for him remembering the day we fist met.
Meeting My Father-in-Law
Your warm and bearlike hand
grasped my slim, collegiate palm
more turned to turning pages than
industry and grind. At this first
meeting you greeted me with a
gruff Glaswegian growl, rich with
‘Come with me, son,’
and I was driven off to view your
hard and grafted empire. Trying
to enter the conversation with
the man of worth, a row of lorries
at his back.
‘You should write a book,’
I spouted, ‘be a business guru.’
‘The only ones writing fucking books
are going fucking bust.’
Words sculpted in working-class granite.
‘What are you qualified in?’
you asked in search of succour for
a daughter. ‘Theology,’ I squeaked,
the sumptuous leather seat expanding,
making me a boy again. Your blank
incomprehension travelled soundlessly
over this revelation with the
smoothness of well-treaded tires.
‘Where are you family,’ you segued
through our differences. My father
died as had yours, mine at eleven
and yours at only eight, both boys asked
too early to be men.
‘Your Mother?’ ‘We speak every day,’
I managed. You nodded as you showed
me yards of trucks, your name
emblazoned over every one.
That day we made a contract
of incredulity, two worlds linked by a
boyhood loss and the robust love
of a mother. So when I came to you in
your final coffin and took that cold yet
once warm hand, I knew the fulfillment
of a kept, unspoken vow. Both to spend
the last living breath on a work that
beats the grave and builds a column’s
base on which is carved; here I stand
so my family can travel on in grace.