Those Winter Sundays (Hayden)

“Those Winter Sundays”, was written in 1962 by Robert E. Hayden (1913-1980). It speaks strongly to me of the love and care of my own father when I was a child, helping me to overcome the damage caused by polio. Every evening at bedtime, for years on end, he would place my damaged leg into its split, wrap it in woollen coverings and assure me that all would be well.

I don’t recall thanking him (although I have done now!). I was too young to understand his love, but I knew that he cared, and now understand that he loved—and at age 91 still loves, even as middle age challenges me once again with symptoms that he, my mother, and I struggled against, sixty years ago.

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze.

No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?