Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Petty Bitterness by Sam Norman


When they turn sixteen,
the scouts of Troop 25
go canoeing
down the Connecticut River.

It’s a week-long trip of camping, eating over open fires,
a chance to spend time bonding with Ben, my semi-distant teen.

For practice we took our canoe,
old, heavy, and unstable,
to the beach across the lake
to pick up Ben’s brother, Daniel, from day camp.

Halfway across I swamped the canoe,
and we were forced to swim,
pulling the cumbersome boat the rest of the way.
When we eventually made it to the beach
we lay on the sand, an exhausted spectacle
for campers to gape and point at.


I spent hours agonizing over our equipment:
Should I buy the full fingered gloves or half?
What kind of dry bag is best?
Will this hat protect my freckled skin from burning?

At the logistics meeting, I announced,
I really like to cook, and I am willing
to do all the cooking on the trip.

Ben interrupted.
Dad, Mike will do it.
He’s a really good cook.

I felt stung, but I let it go
because I was utterly excited to be going with my son.

And then the day before the trip -- the day before the trip,
Ben told me he didn't want me to go.

He wanted this time to be with his friends
and not with me.

That night I went into his bag
and took the gloves I had so carefully picked
and hid them. I wanted his blistered hands
to feel some of the pain that I was feeling.


I never forgave him. 
I stopped going to father/son weekends.
I stopped helping to organize events.
To this day I haven't seen his Eagle Scout project.

Yesterday I found one of his rowing gloves
in the back of a closet
I put it on
and sat down on the floor and cried.

Later today I will visit, for the first time,
the outdoor amphitheater
that Ben built for his Eagle Scout project.
Later today I will see what I missed.   

Sam Norman teaches high school at Bacon Academy in Colchester, CT. Recent works have appeared in Verse-Virtual, Amethyst, Down in the Dirt and Praxis. Most of Sam’s recent poetry focuses on a terrible tragedy. Sam’s son, Ben, just 20 years old, lost his life in a accident on New Year’s Eve, 2018.

1 comment:

  1. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how it's done.
    A great write, Mr Norman. My hat is off.