Notes to My Father

By Kathy Fagan

May 31, 2021

Notes to My Father

On most surfaces in my house, you’ll find short notes I’ve written for my father. I flip the phone’s camera on FaceTime so he can read them when he can’t hear me. He mouths them slowly out loud: Be good and obey nurses. Put hearing aids in ears. Today is Jacob’s birthday. Stay awake in daylight and sleep in the dark. Change into clean clothes or God won’t take you to heaven. Call after dinner. I love you.

In Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, the residents of Macondo label everything against a mass amnesia—shirt, chair, lemon—knowing, one day, even the words will mean nothing because they will have forgotten how to read. Dad replies one of two ways to my notes: he chuckles or tells me no. I understand both responses mean no, but I keep trying because I believe in words, especially those already lost.


Kathy Fagan’s fifth poetry collection, Sycamore (Milkweed, 2017), was a finalist for the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Award. Her new book, Bad Hobby, appears in 2022. Fagan directs the MFA Program at The Ohio State University.


Picture by Kelly Sikkema courtesy of Unsplash

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