• laurie

Never Done THIS Before

July 27, 2017


image credit: Jazz & Poetry With Purpose, Carmens de la Calle and/or Andrea Vocab Sanderson


When the fantabulous Andrea Vocab Sanderson says, sort of off-hand, that you should read at this event, well... you take her up on it! This "short bio" I sent her was short indeed: Laurie Dietrich has written a lot of things and performed in a lot of places for a lot of years, but she's never done THIS before.


And oh it was so much fun! Writers everywhere, get yourself a jazz backing band. You'll thank me. Speaking of thanks - big ones to Vocab, to the musicians, to the friends that came to see me do something new, and the strangers who did too, and were kind. I wrote and performed a thing about the difficulty of having a daddy (also, by inference, of being a daddy), titled LIKE ME. Text below. When I get it recorded I'll link it here.


LIKE ME


I am more like my father

Than my mother


Oh I look like her


But I have his chilly won’t-build-bridges thing

You have to swim the moat to get to me

I don’t make it easy


I haven’t had a mother in over thirty years

Except when I look in the mirror

I haven’t had a father in over thirty years

But I can hear him when I open my mouth

When I say “what did you expect?”

When I say “figures”

When I assume you don’t mean it when you say

“Let’s get together”

When you say

“Let’s keep in touch”


Always expect the worst from people he said

You’ll never be disappointed, and sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised

His whole life was like that I think

Hedged against

Not pain

He took the pain for granted

Hedged against hope instead

Because when you hope for better

Things hurt you twice


You might think I’m describing a misfit man

An outsider

The kind of person who sinks beneath the surface of life

When that time comes

And doesn’t leave a ripple behind

But thousands of people came to the memorial service

It was postponed, several times, while we tried to find bigger churches

They came for my mother too

Everybody liked her

But he was the star that had blinked out

His was the chilly lost light they came to mourn


See, my father was blazingly intelligent

(Something else I like to think I got from him

But every year that passes I feel dumber)

He bought his safety his whole life with his brilliance

And his willingness to follow the rules

People paid him good money to pull oil out of the ground

The food I ate, the houses I lived in

The clothes I wore, the education I got

All paid for by the rape of the Earth

So there’s that


Being alike doesn’t mean you don’t fight

Sometimes it means you fight harder

We were both

Ruthlessly logical

Utterly skeptical

Introverted as fuck

Easily bored

Achievement oriented

But he was a child of his times

The achievement he wanted most was safety

Security for his family

And because he succeeded

Because he gave me safety,

All I wanted to do was throw it away

I wanted adventure and risk and edge

And all the answers, even if they were awful

All the answers, no matter what price I had to pay for them

I was just the way he would have been

If he’d had a father who made him feel safe

But he didn’t

And his fear for me

(expressed in disapproval and scorn)

And my disdain for that fear

(expressed in disapproval and scorn)

Made us as much enemies as family can be

For awhile

We were just starting to see each other

Over the lips of our respective bunkers

When he died


I lived in the kind of house with an actual, ongoing debate

About whether human beings were inherently altruistic

Or predatory


Mom was Team Altruism

I called her Pollyanna

I stood with my father

He told my mother once

(they were together since seventh grade)

that he didn’t love his father

Only told her once

Expected her to remember

And she did

And she told me

When I finally broke down, in frustration and incredulity, about the monster my grandfather was


A quiet monster, to be sure

Nothing flashy

Just some adultery

And some racism

And some joy in getting the best of other people

Perfectly fine for a white guy

Just another one of the boys

Your father never loved him

She told me to ease my loneliness

Alone-feeling in that hatred

But mostly, I think, to redeem my father

In my eyes

She loved him of course

Never as desperately as he loved her

(He loved her through the one small crack he could manage in the door of his heart

He loved her like a life raft)

She knew he was honorable

She wanted me to know it too


My grandfather though

What growing up with that as a father

Must have done to mine


When I was thirty years old

I stood with that old man, and some others

On a curb in downtown Houston

Waiting to cross a busy street

Across the way a group of young men

Boys really

Were flashing and strutting and laughing

The way boys do, to keep the insecurity at bay

They pack up and they cocky-walk and who can’t see through that?

It’s just youth and overwhelm and whistling their way past the graveyard

But my grandfather’s eyes narrowed

And his voice got all crypt-keeper nasty

The sound of spitting choking evil

And he said “THAT…”

Meaning those boys, those human beings

“THAT gets to live, but my son is dead!”

For a moment, my father’s death was okay with me

Because of the pain it caused his father

Forgive me, daddy


“When your father dies”

My mother said

“His funeral will be the last time I ever see those people”

She meant his family

She had more steel in her than he ever did

Disappointed idealist that he was

He’d have liked to have loved his father

He’d have liked to have forgiven his mother

My mother?

She knew no one deserves love

No one deserves forgiveness

She knew you have to earn it


When my parents died

Their funeral was the last time I ever saw those people

That’s practically true

Except there wasn’t a funeral

Because they were in pieces in a jungle half a world away

Falling out the sky is no gentle, pretty ending

There was only the biggest of the churches

And acres of black fabric wrapping three thousand bodies

All of which wanted to touch mine, when it was over

Like they could touch them through me

That made me angriest of all


“He has to die first”

My mother said

“He couldn’t live without me”

And I knew it was truth

And not arrogance

I knew it was kindness

Her willingness to be without him

(which, in the end, she never was

Their happiest ending,

To die together

It only sucked for those of us left behind)


I am more like my mother than my father

In one way

I know that I can outlive anything

But no one’s ever loved me

The way he loved her

So that’s one more sacrifice I’ll never have to make


I missed her most in the beginning

She was my friend

And he was not

I miss him more as time goes on

I want to ask her things like

“how’d you make that meatloaf?”

I want to ask him things like

“how’d you live like that?

So smart

So scared

So lonely?”


I want to tell him

“I knew you loved me, daddy”

I figured it out

That his heart was just a little wider

Than my mother’s feet

Just wide enough for mine as well

I figured it out the day they drove away

Left me standing secretly gutted in front of the freshman dorm

When he was the only one that cried.

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