The year 2015 will arrive in about 6 hours–my first year without a Dad. Martin Frank Rattay was a New Year’s baby, so the traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne (or “Times Gone By”) will forever make me think of Dad on this day.
Dad was a poet, a nature-lover, and often, a sadly misunderstood man. He usually saw the half-empty part of the glass, a trait we shared. In 1970, he wrote a poem that was decades ahead of its time, foreshadowing the climate crisis and the growing gulf between rich and poor Americans. I call it “The Reckoning,” and publish it at the conclusion of this post, as a tribute to his 83-year life, which ended on August 22, 2014.
Achieving his rest was a tough battle. Dad inevitably gave in to his adversary, Parkinson’s Disease. In fact, he departed many months before his actual death. I can place the last moment he was alive for me, to summer 2013, when he summoned the biggest sound I had heard come out of him in ages, loudly and distinctly correcting my pronunciation of “pileated” woodpecker as I stood by his bed showing him magazine photos of birds and reading the captions aloud. That was Dad—always trying to improve on things and impart knowledge. Whether you wanted it or not.
He achieved almost everything he set out to do. Every home renovation plan was laid out years in advance, and methodically checked off on his bucket list. From building a three-car garage, a sun room, and a screened porch, to covering the house with a brick facade.
He had no patience for dawdlers, even at the end of his life. Once, as I hesitated by his hospital bedside about to depart, he amused everyone present by loudly announcing: “if you’re going, ‘git’ going!” That was classic Dad.
Thanks for the great poems I will always hold in my heart.
Thanks for making me hand-crafted cherry book-ends from a tree in our Pennsylvania yard, which will always be a reminder of our mutual love of nature and reading.
Thanks for saving the apple tree in my yard in Rockaway. I always think of it as my little piece of home away from home. As long as it lives, it will be “Grandpa ‘Tay’s tree.”
Thanks for your pushing, prodding, and pride in all my ventures.
I will miss you, now and always, Dad.
Text and photos above copyright 2014 Vivian R. Carter, The Reckoning, copyright 1970 Martin F. Rattay, last photo copyright 2008 Vivian R. Carter.
What is this force that drives a man, to heave destruction on the land?
To spew his acids in the streams
And with one thoughtless lapse of mind, ruin the future of all mankind.
In the air we send the ash, dirty soot and noxious gas.
Turnpikes, freeways, bridges and such, were meant to serve the mass of us.
Speeds fantastic do impress, but we could do without the rest.
Loss of land and water siltation could mean the end of this mighty nation.
Snap top cans on every side. Strew the byways nationwide.
No more fly the delicate birds, they’ve given up to the destruction lords.
Garbage, litter, trash and such are the result of all of us.
Timber, coal, gas and oil; to the victors go the spoil.
Spineless leaders, gutless men; vie with each other for the pen.
Useless laws we have amassed; unenforced though they have passed.
Forgotten are the nation’s goals—broken spirits, hopeless souls.
Starving people and amassed wealth cannot help the nation’s health.
Contradictions on every side, oh my God, where can we hide?
It’s the devil in us all, carries us high, then lets us fall.
Let’s all be our brother’s keeper; for a meaning — richer, deeper.
Redirect our nation’s strengths, patch the wounds and mend the fence.
If he’s hungry, you must feed him, if he’s unloved, you must need him.
Pamper, educate, prod or reason, do what you must at this season.
Once again the nation would be united, and noone could ever hide it.
Share with all the true good life; and no longer will there be strife.
Then stand tall and with the nation – fill your lungs – without hesitation,
Walk ‘neath skies of deep blue, drink from crystal waters, too.
Lush green foliage, peace and quiet, if just once we would try it.
It could not but help succeed, for the nation has the need.
Martin F. Rattay