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January’s Child: For My Daughter

Justine and my Mother
in another place, in another time.

I saw you first as some small prized gem
Passed between white-masked men
In rooms ablaze with light, and laid
Wrapped and so precious in my hands,
That I felt then I had somehow stolen
Some full measure of fire from heaven
And held it now on earth forever,
As firm as stone, as light as breath.

In all my days, of all my days,
No gift was given me but you,
And this I knew as we first met
In that bronze-bright room
Where, draped in white, I heard
The music of your newborn’s heart,
And knew you’d stand the first in mine
For all the moments mine would mark,
And those moments all of yours beyond.

Since then the separate rooms enclose us now.
Still in the meadows of my heart,
In that first moment, all my circles close,
Like runners rounding third at dusk,
And safe, at last, come loping home.

That moment was the best of life,
Held in my heart where distance dies,
Yet I am trapped in these thin lines
That cannot paint a love so wide,
And all my mind and meager art
Lies stunned and speechless struck.

In life, our words are clipped and brief.
We do not say what we would speak,
Since saying would in some strange way
Dissolve the moment, reverse the day,
And risk the heart would come to grief.
All is left unspoken, unexplored but sensed,
Our interrupted lives accepted as the wind,
As some red weather over which
We have no control beyond a shrug,
As if to speak of love except at slant
Were to invite the derision of the sky,
And so we must in silence trust
That in not speaking our love will grow.
And if you wish it, why then I wish it so.

Let all that be as it shall be, but here I shall reveal
Those deeper notions that I hold, and always shall,
For you, my only child, as on the dawn
Of this one day in deepest winter I mindful mark
How we began beyond all those winters gone.
And if, in speaking here in such strange silence, I
Will say too much by saying short, I trust
In your emerging love to be, as all doting fathers must,
Forgiven these few words; if not today, in time,
For not to speak in time would be the cruelest way.

Of all the gifts I’ve lost you are
The single one I seek to find.
But that I know I cannot know,
For I by you must now be found,
As you your child must also hold,
Until the woman you shall be
Unfolds from child and stands apart,
Upon some hill I shall not know
Where all that is spreads out below,
And following paths to trails to roads
You trace your own bright shadow home.

How distant now was that chill day
When wrapped you first drowsed within
My forearm, head cupped in my hand,
And dazed and dazzled, gazed about
That buzzing room as if to see
All the things that you would be,
Awakened now from that strong sleep
That had embraced and nourished you
Since, in another afternoon’s half-sleep,
You were begun in a patch of sun,
That fell in softened patterns through the boughs,
Where two doves murmured your as yet unknown name,
And, in the softened rustle of their breaths,
Sang you into being as the music of our dream.

Now that spring has faded far,
Although I hear its music still,
But you, my dearest, darling girl,
Are of that spring in every cell,
And more than dreams could ever tell.

The years from there to here all blur,
Their endless seconds ended each
In their short span, and here we stand
Within another winter’s day to mark
The day when first at last we met.

Within that room your gift was such,
I did not think that it could be
Not mine forever, yet now I know
That all our children must be free.
We hold them only through our letting go

— Written for my daughter on her sixteenth birthday in January 1997

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • steve walsh January 16, 2019, 11:32 AM

    I’m somewhat afraid to ask, are you still close?

  • Vanderleun January 16, 2019, 4:27 PM

    Alas we are not. And I have never understood why. I think it has something to do with Parental Alienation Syndrome but I’ve never been sure.

    • Kevin in PA January 16, 2022, 6:42 AM

      “Parental Alienation Syndrome”
      Thanks for sharing this lovely poem and the heretofore unknown (to me) pattern of behavior. I had no idea it was a thing.

      I too endure the heartache that come from both of my adult children wishing to have nothing to do with me. I have made numerous attempts to get to the bottom of it and to do my best to work things out. All to no avail. After several attempts to work it through by discussing the matter with my ex-wife, it became clear to me that she has their ear and not a kind word is spoken of me.

      If I had been an abuser, or had I abandoned the family, I could understand the void that has developed. I was there for 25 years and our children never went without anything they needed. Not saying I was the perfect father, but I certainly don’t feel like I deserve the contempt that has been shown toward me.

      Recently, I have had several conversations with different people in my age group and many of them have found themselves in the same situation. Rejected, ignored or emotionally abandoned by one’s offspring and it is often in the context of Trump (derangement syndrome) or Covid-vaccine (hysteria).

      I simply don’t know what to do, but to add this to my long list of prayers. For you. For me. For all parents that are estranged from their own children, may God shine his light and grace upon those children and show them the way back. May the Lord also shine his light of patience upon those suffering parents. May He one day re-unite them in his loving joy.

      • gwbnyc January 16, 2022, 8:11 AM

        I’m privy to the self-professed tribulations of a fair amount of people. This topic, not rarely, is raised as is the commonality of the unsuccessfull seeking of reasons for it. Many give it to God in the interim- that’s easier to type than abide by.

        • gwbnyc January 16, 2022, 4:48 PM


          “professed tribulations”, as declared and factual.

      • Mike Austin January 16, 2022, 8:17 AM

        Kevin: Your words and Gerard’s poem reveal a love and a pain about which I can scarcely comprehend. I have never had such joy and such heartache, and am a lesser man therefore. The more I read at American Digest the longer my prayer list grows.

        • Kevin in PA January 16, 2022, 5:50 PM

          Thanks from the heart.

  • David January 16, 2019, 5:33 PM

    Gerard, so sad it is to grow old and become estranged by the years from our children. The ones so dear and close to us, who meant so much on that distant day.
    And also how we sometimes become ourselves estranged from our parents, for the same distant and unfathomable reasons, because we are all human and weak and broken. And we have forgotten how magical and mysterious love really is.
    I hope that someday love will renew the thing that lies between you and your daughter. And that before the Last Day, you will once again feel and know again what was lost.
    I too have children, and it is a struggle to stay close to them, when we all have our own lives to live, and not to hover over them and interfer with their own spirit and life.

  • SAHMmy January 16, 2019, 5:45 PM

    This is beautiful Gerard. I hope you don’t mind but I’ll be praying for you both at daily Mass.

  • Howard Nelson January 16, 2019, 6:22 PM

    It occurs to me that the love you have for your daughter is like the love God has for us. Thus, you are in good company. You are blessed; there are adults who have no children to love.

    • Estoy Listo January 16, 2022, 5:31 PM

      What a lovely and comforting observation. It’s been years since I’ve seen my son, my “Timmy.”

  • Anonymous January 16, 2019, 7:19 PM

    For 50 plus years, our culture has done everything it can to poison the relationship between fathers and daughters. For 50 plus years, toxic feminism has been indoctrinated and brainwashed an entire generation to blame men for all the problems women create. For 50 plus years, double-standards have been applied to every institution from family courts to education to earning a living to support a family at the expense of fathers being able to do their jobs well. For 50 plus years, women have long forgotten how to be good wives, parents, daughters. And sure enough, women blame men for that along with everything else.

    The result is a mortal wound in the soul of America from which, as history has taught, nations do not recover from. Lady Macbeth would be proud of what women in America have become as they try to wash the blood from their hands.

  • Jeff Brokaw January 17, 2019, 5:42 AM

    A beautiful tribute. May the distance between you shrink with each passing day. So many years already wasted … but it’s never too late.

  • jd January 17, 2019, 7:50 AM

    Such a beautiful poem, Gerard. Thank you for posting.
    I will send it to our daughter even though she will probably not read it.
    We can only keep trying.

  • KCK January 16, 2022, 6:07 AM

    This father of a young daughter needs to dust this room, later. Seems to be some getting in my eyes.

  • Annie Rose January 16, 2022, 6:17 AM

    Beautiful words from the heart. They remind me of a mother and daughter that our therapy team worked with years ago. They came to our infant-toddler program for children with developmental delays for treatment. This little girl was two years old and had cerebral palsy. She couldn’t walk, talk, or even hold her head up. She was also brain damaged. She had been in therapy and had surgeries since her birth. Her mom always made sure that she was beautifully dressed and her hair was braided or put up in ribbons. In winter, she would struggle at the end of the session to get her arms and legs back into her snowsuit, hat, scarf, mittens, and tiny boots. Her hands were so loving and gentle. One day as she carried her out, I overheard her whispering lovingly to her daughter “You are my most precious gift from God.” She knew a universal truth. Children are our most precious gifts from God. We hold them for only a short time and then they fly out into the world to find their own way. Whether they circle back or not, we still have the gift of our time with them. I pray that your little bird will circle back to you one day.

  • LadyBikki January 16, 2022, 7:10 AM

    I was estranged from my father for decades.
    When my parents divorced I laid the blame, and rightly so, at his feet. I owned my mother’s pain and anger and cut him completely out of my life.
    But there came a moment when a light came on in the dark of my heart and I realized the marriage had been theirs, not mine.
    And I forgave…myself, for being so childish and stubborn, and him for being a flawed human and making choices he came to regret.
    He never stopped loving me and in the end I realized I had never stopped loving him.
    There was reconciliation and great joy, for a time.
    He is gone now and I am left to regret the choices I made.

    • Mike Austin January 16, 2022, 8:09 AM

      “And I forgave…myself, for being so childish and stubborn…” That is perhaps the most difficult of things to do. There was a time when I wanted to punish myself for being so stupid, so foolish, so blind. It took years to understand that I was suffering from nothing so dramatic as the “human condition”. I was a son of Adam and acted like one. The reconciliation you had with your father was perhaps one of the greatest joys of your life. I only can hope and pray that you find a way through the regret. Regret and guilt are useless emotions and can only lead to memories of pain. I turned all of that over to God.

  • Mike Seyle January 16, 2022, 7:30 AM

    It may be no coincidence that it’s Sunday morning. Such things from the heart. May God bless you all.

  • Dirk January 16, 2022, 8:56 AM

    Wow, that’s a Heavy poem. Brother only one person going to fix this. That’s YOU. Your missing out on a lot, family relationships can be strained. In every relationship one has to be the adult, make the first Move,,, make that MOVES.

    Clearly you care, and she matters to you! Off all life’s twists turns, this misunderstanding must be fixed. Would be a tragedy to leave us, having not patched this up.

    One of my close yet distant friends is walking your path. We helped raise his daughter while he healed his issues. He wasn’t even invited to her wedding.

    These are matters of the heart. Their is no pain like pain regarding one’s heart, love, life.

    I’ll end with this. Of all life’s battles this is the single most important, must be fixed, in tiny pieces then chunks then close the matter out. She is your flesh and blood. I’m guessing she has your big wonderful, heart! Don’t quit brother.


  • James ONeil January 16, 2022, 9:06 AM

    Blessings. Mine. Counting them.
    A joy of these strange dazes; all my chicks came home to roost, kids families now on properties adjoining mine.

    Wishes. Hopes, Prayers.
    That things work out as well, or near as well, for others.

  • julie January 16, 2022, 11:56 AM

    Add my prayers to everyone else’s, that somehow, some way, she will seek to mend the rift between you before it is too late and she finds herself regretting all that didn’t pass.

    When I was younger, in my early 20s, I went for five full years without talking to my dad. I was so angry, I didn’t invite him to my wedding. Even though I had reason, still the bitterness was just as harmful to me as it was to him. Eventually, my sister was getting married. I decided it was time to grow up, let go of the anger and make amends. We talked, finally, and I told him what had hurt so much, and that all I had ever wanted from him was an acknowledgement that he wronged me, and an apology. The truth came out, and with much tears and much love, we made amends.

    By God’s grace, one day years later when I was talking to my dad, he said wistfully, “If you ever renew your wedding vows, I want to be there.” I laughed a little, because I didn’t expect to be renewing any vows any time soon, but promised it would happen if we did. Fast forward a couple months, as my family was being brought into the Catholic church, we learned we’d have to be married again in the church. He cried when I told him. It was an even smaller ceremony than our first one, but my dad did indeed walk me down the aisle.

    God works in mysterious and beautiful ways, and when we let Him, He can even mend that which we had thought irreparably broken.

  • Hale Adams January 16, 2022, 12:02 PM

    I’m with Casey on this one …….

    Thanks to your poem, Gerard, I maybe can understand my late father a little better. A father-daughter relationship differs from a father-son relationship, and you’re looking at things through the small end of the telescope, so to speak, while I’m looking at things in the other direction through the big end of the telescope.

    Fathers can be funny creatures. Most times, when I think of my father, I miss him so much, I want to cry. (He died from kidney cancer at age 70, right before Christmas, 1997. He really should have had a few more years. …….) Every once in a while, though, when I think of him, I am so relieved that that pig-headed old so-and-so isn’t here anymore. He had many admirable qualities, and I will say that every boy should be so lucky to have Ray Adams as his father, and that the world would be a better place if there were more men in it like Raymond Eugene Adams. He could also be a little difficult to live with, too, sometimes, because his only son can be a bit pig-headed as well. (Yes, the room’s gotten dusty ……)

    About 40 years ago, now, I had a conversation with him that turned rather scary. I had been away for a while (at college, or maybe I was home on leave from the Army), and Dad was catching me up on goings-on in the county while I was away. Somehow or another, the topic came up of a local trouble-maker who had been busted by the sheriff or the State Police on charges of being a small-time drug-dealer — pot and pills, no “hard stuff”.

    I was of the opinion then (and still am) that the War on Drugs is a sick joke, every bit as pernicious and counter-productive as our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ War on Alcohol a century ago. They, at least, had the good sense to make alcohol legal again, and to control it and discourage its use. The appear to have understood something that we oh-so-modern and up-to-date present-day folks don’t. But that’s a rant for another time.

    Ennyhoo, I stated my opinion on the subject of illicit drugs, and Dad did not agree, and was quite … um ….. pointed in his disagreement. He went on at some length in his disagreement, and after I tried unsuccessfully to steer the conversation to another topic, I let the old man say his piece — Dad had something to say, and he was by God going to say it.

    At some point, his pontification took a left turn into the hypothetical. Dad said that if it had turned out (again, speaking in the hypothetical) that I had been one of the trouble-maker’s customers, or (God forbid) one of his business partners, that he (Dad) and I would have an “encounter”.

    You know how, when you’re a little kid, if you’re on the verge of misbehaving, your parents will give you The Look, and caution you in a certain tone of voice? When Dad mentioned the “encounter”, his facial expression and tone of voice became very menacing — it was clear that I would not be getting a spanking but a *beating*, and it was not necessarily guaranteed that I would survive the encounter. (Dad was built like a gorilla. Even into his 60s he could squat down, hoist up onto his shoulder an eighty-pound bag of barn calcite, and walk off with it. His college ring fit snugly on his ring finger — I still have it, and it fits loosely on my thumb. And I am NOT a small man.)

    Dad went on to say that, after he was done with me ….. and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end …. there was murder in his voice and written on his face …. he would reach into his gun closet, pull out a firearm, and go hunting.

    There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that my father loved my sister and me. “Warm and fuzzy” was not his way — he could be so, from time to time, and was more likely to be so with my sister than with me — but he did love us, even if that love was best described as “fierce”, maybe to the point of being a little dark and twisted.

    I am not a father, and likely never will be one — I’m 60 now, and still single. (No, I’m not gay, and while I like women well enough, I learned to keep them at arm’s length a long time ago. Rather anti-social, I am.) So, there is a lot about love that I don’t understand, but it seems to me that love is not fully rational thing — it has a large component of the irrational (in the sense of unthinking) in it.

    Over the years, Dad and I “locked horns” a few times, but I think that for the most part he was happy with the way I turned out. He did say shortly before he died that I had given him and Mom very little trouble growing up.

    OK, who tossed the tear-gas grenade into the room …??


  • RedBeard January 16, 2022, 12:22 PM

    I’m truly sorry to learn that your daughter and you are not emotionally close.
    From what I understand, that same situation is present in over 35% of families in America now– often caused by politics or religious differences.

    It’s been said that every parent’s worst nightmare and heartache is having their child die before they do. I’d imagine that a child willfully developing a huge emotional separation from a parent is just as bad. And any parent that would use a child as a weapon against the other parent is truly evil.

    I’ve seen many cases of that P.A.S. before, although I didn’t know until just now that the syndrome actually had a name. And I’ve been seeing 10x more of it in the last decade.
    Most of those have involved political differences (often the wife being liberal, the husband conservative) with religious differences sometimes involved. Drug abuse and ‘LGBTQ’ situations are also a common factor.
    The most extreme ones I’ve witnessed have the ‘angry, overbearing’ parent using financial control over the child, constant verbal flooding of the child’s mind with every (real or construed) possible flaw of the other parent, and in extreme cases, moving the child geographically as far away from the other spouse as possible.

    I pray that you and your daughter will someday reconcile any differences and become close again.

  • Terry January 16, 2022, 4:19 PM

    At 16 years of age (1961) my mother kicked me out of the house. I never saw nor heard from her again. I found out from my youngest son in 2014 that she had passed. At that notification I had a rush of guilt pass through me. The guilt has not subsided and never will. She was 87 years of age.

  • Dave January 16, 2022, 4:30 PM


    I have been reading your musings since you lived on Lake Union and I worked near Gasworks Park. I have enjoyed your insights, but I can’t read your poetry. It just doesn’t flow for me. But that’s just me.

    However, your words . . .

    Your words as prose strike at my heart. I can hear the anguish and loneliness. After losing my Mom in 2015, I lived vicariously through you and your Mom. We remember, cry, and try to move on. Clinging to the memories.

    Yesterday, on my 76th birthday, my daughter called from SF. I could hear her kids, 5 & 2, playing in the background. We talked of this and that, but I could hear her voice. As we said goodbye, she said “I love you, Dad.”

    That is my wish for you, Gerard and the other commenters, is to hear those words soon.

  • Tom Hyland January 16, 2022, 7:41 PM

    This poem, Gerard, sounds very much like you wrote it as if she was rapidly becoming a ghost in your life. I am curious… do you know if she EVER read this? How old was she when you left the building?

  • SteveS January 17, 2022, 10:44 PM

    Sorry I’m late on this but I have to say that one struck such an emotional chord in me. Just so beautiful G. Reading through the various comments made my heart ache. “Honor your mother and your father, that your time may be long on the earth.” That’s the template we were given for our own good,
    for our own health. Also, forgiveness. Many prayers.