Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On to the Westward Patrick M. Ridley

Today, November 19, 2013, the 150 year anniversary of the Gettysburg Address was a day for the Alaskanpoet to be reminded of his own mortality. After enrolling for Medicare Supplemental Insurance, in going through some boxes containing old files, I found the eulogy for my father  I wrote on the plane from Seattle to Petersburg. As I enter the early winter of my life on reflection, I realize I have been blessed in certain areas--a grandfather was poet and whose works I will publish, a mother and father who were also poets thought sadly I am still searching for examples of my father's work and last but not least a young son, a freshman at Stanford who has received my muse genes and the muse genes of his paternal great-grandfather and his paternal grandfather and grandmother.  Poetry to me is a direct path to one's Higher Power and spirituality. My father's eulogy is below. I hope you enjoy it and whether you live your life in prose or in muse, live it in zest and with a purpose

On to the Westward Patrick M. Ridley
Almost 50 years ago, Thidwick-the-big-hearted moose in this room I did recite
Encouraged by my parents, trying to memorize each day and late into the night
It is only fitting that I should eulogize in verse not about Moose Moss or antlers on a Harvard Club wall
But rather about a man who was admired and loved by us all 

We have had problems with funerals since Antony came to bury not to praise
Whether planned or unexpected, the loss and mortality comes in a misty daze
When a stranger or distant friend, it’s easy to give the hugs and find the right accolades
As a departed’s life passes quickly to a festive wake from a funeral parade 

But if a parent is the one summoned through death’s one way portal,
A link to life is severed, chill whispers that the child, too, is mortal
It may be easy to eulogize a mother who is usually viewed by a son as a saint
But a father is never perfect, some rough edges, a canvas with many shades and hues of paint 

My father’s life has finally ebbed, the tide of life never to return
Now part of the Southeast rains, Sitka Spruce, and muskeg ferns
A station owner, vet, deckhand, cook, accountant, poet, Irish—he led many lives
Not a complete marital cat, he was blessed with only 4 wives 

Around the world as a seaman at 18, the U.S. after the war, fueled by a wander lust
Alaska is where he set his roots; here were the people he would love and trust
My father knew not the meaning of material greed
His only true wealth was the acceptance by this town’s old breed
He never ran a bank, but his wallet would never close
Always proud to be Irish among the Norse and let his shamrock show
Lois W, Ira II, Torun, Rex, Westerly Charles W, Bernice A
Just a few of the wooden ladies plying the sounds, straits and bays 

A brilliant mind, no crossword he could not complete
No misguided tax audit he could not defeat
Big Tobacco could have used him on whether nicotine could addict
60 years of smoking, slowed down by a stroke and he willed himself to quit 
Nobility to him was the fisherman, farmer, and logger without which we could not exist
Anymore than a boat would not capsize with a 50 degree list
To him there was only one major test
Live life as a friend to all with unrestrained zest 

It has been 36 years but there is an image I will hold until the day I die
Landing in Scow Bay with Kurt standing tall and my father nursing a Harbor Bar black eye
A full life of generations of friend and even as some of whom may shed a tear
Think of all the pols and bureaucrats with no more Ridley letters to fear 

Christ was a fisherman, so they must fish on the eternal seas
Whether under power, with strong arms or an ocean breeze
Whether with seine, trawl, pot, net or baited trolling or halibut hook
Listen to the whispers of the passed old breed ‘Patrick, you’ve been away too long our friend and master cook 

On to The Westward, may your soul pass through the Land of the Midnight Sun
To the peaceful tranquility of misting rain, swaying spruce and never-ending salmon runs

©  1999 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

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