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father’s day



On this Father’s Day, this father chooses to honor his children, now both adults with lives and families far away from here. Yet here, this house, this coop, this woods, this road down to the lake, this place holds my fondest memories of them. I can almost hear their childish voices, almost see them on a tree-swing that once hung from an old maple tree near the road, almost see my son throwing a basket ball into a small, much too low, ring that still remains attached to the garage today…and almost make out the strike-zone I once painted on the outside of the garage door, where my son and I pitched a soft or hard ball to each other: “Batter up!” He was tireless…I was always exhausted. And I still see and delight in my daughter living her life full in the imaginary world of dolls and babies, taking to them, singing, pulling them in a wagon down the road…playing house.

I have written very little about either my son, Christo (Christopher) or my daughter Bridge (Bridget) in all the words and articles, stories, poems, books I’ve penned since I first began to write seriously around 1961. I’m not surprised by this. But I am aware. I don’t have any explanation for this—then again, if I may speculate…

Somewhere in my crazy ethnic, Eastern European origins and blood lines, I harbor the gene of ‘secrecy’. I saw it in grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles…from early on cautioned: “Don’t tell anyone!” The Catholic church with it’s rituals and ‘confession box’ (an apt metaphor) only enforced this darkness within. Just between me and the big guy up there. Nobody else need to know. And when writing first began to take hold (late high school, early college), it was all about secrecy, privacy, finding yourself in an imaginary world that no one need know—till you felt the need to share the words in publication. A hard lesson.

To this day, I harbor more secret rituals about my work and life than anyone would imagine. I never show a manuscript to anyone prior to publication other than my publisher and/or an editor.

Most perplexing, confounding, almost unexplainable (undoubtedly a big factor in the loss of a long marriage) was how ‘the secret’ becomes ‘the secret life’ which is impossible for the writer to reveal in any other way than words on paper.

All this to explain the double-life. In my case, the middle class father outwardly living the life of wife and family and all that it entails to insure loving care, proper parenting, the straight life and above all, ‘protection’—from the other life of creative craziness within where freedom reigns and the writer is most alive, constantly on the edge of bursting out, ready to sacrifice anything (marriage, children, job, profession, religion, middle-class friends and values) to remain forever in this state of grace, his true self.

Bless you both, my son, my daughter, for all you have brought to my life.


Bridget’s Bouquet

June 30I have no time, it seems, even for flowers along the road. Those weeds already in downy fullness to match the full moon last night. The orange and yellow hawkweed dotting the roads and fields in perfect free¬style flows of color. And the white daisies, singularly, the most beautiful petaled flower. These my daughter secretly gathers in a small bouquet for my desk. Through the white daisy we both speak summer, though the act is one of silence. I will enter the coop, usually in the early shadows of morning, flick on the desk light, and there, in a white vase near the typewriter, a small bouquet of daisies. And that will set the day—a child’s gesture of unexamined love.

Games Upon the Road

October 30I’ve played these games upon the road with my son for more than 10 years now: baseball in spring, football in autumn, hockey in winter. In fall, especially, I’ve watched his shadow grow into mine in the always setting sun behind his back, felt his arm strengthen and his pass aim sharpen. He plays to win, to seek a perfection beyond the old man, while my passes grow shorter, and my runs are all too soon out of breath. I play to be outside in these dwindling hours of autumn, to hear the missed pass rustle through the leaves, to consume the sky above his head in such a glow of gold and lavender, the softest flush of pink. We toss passes till the light is gone, till the ball must be arced considerably toward the receiver’s hands. Until I call “time to go in,” knowing this fall may well be our last chance at autumn games, the shadows having merged and boyhood disappeared.

[from DOOR STEPS, Ellis Press, 1983]

The OLD MAN, looking back, looking forward.


  1. Curtis Dunlap

    Beautiful, Norb. Thank you for a very enjoyable glimpse at you and your family.

    cycling with my son –
    this is the autumn
    I fall behind

    The Heron’s Nest VII:4 – 12, 2005

  2. Nancy Akerly

    What beautiful humans beings your children are. We are blessed.

  3. delphine and lee

    How nice. Printing it out.

  4. Eric Chaet

    Glad to hear from you again, Norb.

  5. John Plume

    Happy Father’s Day.., Norb…
    God bless you and we will se you when we see you.

  6. Christo

    Happy Father’s Day to the best Dad ever. May your passes in the Autumn, your slap shots in winter and your throws in the spring, all continue to be right on target. Love, Christo

  7. Judith Amberg

    Bless you, Norb, for sharing your reflective and moving Father’s Day tribute to Christopher and Bridget.

  8. Bridget Buff

    I love you dad. That was beautiful. Happy Father’s Day. XOxo Bridget

  9. Hatto Fischer

    Hey man, hey dad, that is a beautiful piece you wrote about the secrecy of your secrecy. LIkewise a doctor. He would not think of operating on his wife or child. Secrecy the way you describe it in terms of the church making sure you communicate only with the guy up there, that would also explain why so much child abuse could go on in the church without anyone knowing. That darkness inside! This conspiracy against yourself with the ‘self’ participating most eagerly to keep you locked in. Frightening to think of such implications. When fathers’ day in Germany, especially in areas like Heidelberg, you had all the men going on a hike and coming back half or fully drunk. Intoxicated more by their own fear of the women without them they would not have the children, they felt like the drones threatened if a queen bee would appear and entice them to follow, may the one who flies with her up the highest take her. But what fate. The victor had to die. Like the cult of the Mayas. The one who won the game he died. Sacrifice as a way out to a life with no way out. Sadness can cover the eyes. Thus the glance down the road, over to the swings, to the place where you used to play ball, they may be called sentimental feelings but important is to say you lived not only well, but loved those children who exhausted you. Hey dad, that is love. It always exchausts you. That is life.
    Take care

  10. Marie skrobot

    Norb-this is lovely
    the 3 of you are fortune to have this love
    enjoy this day and all the days to follow
    I know you are a great dad and those kids know !

  11. Don

    Hey, Norb … keep on keeping on and a very happy Father’s day, indeed.


  12. Carol Doty

    Deeply touching, Norb. And what beautiful children.
    Have been thinking about you all week, and wishing I could have been at your workshop. Sending love,

  13. dhn

    There was an unmistakeable feeling of safety in young Bridget’s expression which I noticed immediately when I caught both of you in a photograph … leaning on the hood of my car in the summer of 1977. That came from confidence in her father.

    I also have a photo from that same time of Christo … throwing a baseball. But, in his case, I thoroughly delighted in distracting him into losing “games” of pitch and bat with me … years after he should have been beating me soundly.

  14. Howard Sherpe

    Norb, What beautiful thoughts on being a father and the secrecy of a writer when it comes to family. Hope you have a great father’s Day.

  15. Jude hey

    You and Barbara raised lovely children who love you ~ it speaks well of all else in life, families. SA-Lute!

  16. Robert M. Zoschke

    Commander Nazzzz:
    What a beautiful way to show the world you are an infinitely talented craftsman still reigning at the height of your creative prowess…with no plans to step down from the mountaintop. Happy Father’s Day, from one Father to another…Love, Zeeeee

  17. mike mcc

    hey norb!
    my kids told me, I was the best dad in the world….
    how can that be…….?
    how can we all be the best dads in the world…..?

    actually….that is a nice thought.

    Happy Fathers Day to you!

    from the best dad in the world, your bud mike mcc

  18. lowell b komie

    Happy Father’s Day pal……This was a beautiful piece…..Lowell

  19. Alice D'Alessio

    Dear Norb – What a lovely tribute. I’ve always wondered why, in my own writing, I seldom mention my kids – the single most important thing in my life. I feared I was being self-centered. Now I know I had reserved for them a special place in my heart that was private. You have shown me truth – as in all your writings and teachings.
    Thanks you for an inspiring piece, and for the inspiring week, just ended.
    Love, A.

  20. MaryAnn Grzych

    Hi Norb: I loved the tribute to two beautiful children. I understand where you’re coming from. I, too, find it difficult to reveal too much, be too vulnerable. What a giant leap of faith you took today in sharing with your readers. I thank you. God bless.

  21. Barbara Fitz Vroman

    Norbert, I cried. What you wrote was that touching.

    Barbara Fitz Vroman

  22. Tim Stone

    Happy Father’s Day. My Dad left in 1987, but he is never far away. Beautiful message and images of your children.

  23. steve fortney

    Lovely. Kids were here. Grandchildren. Wherever the cockles are they were warmed. Betcha yours were too.


  24. Bonnie Hartmann

    A Happy Father’s Day to you, Dear Norb.
    It makes perfect sense that you guarded your children’s privacy…so much sense.
    The Photos say it all – they love you.
    As do all of us out here thinking and hoping and encouraging you.
    Peace, Bonnie Hartmann

  25. Ruth Telfer

    Thank you Norb! It was a beautiful piece about wonderful children and wonderful memories. Where would we be without the memories?

  26. Harry Mark Petrakis

    A lovely tribute to your children. But what most impacts me about the photographs is how much of an old man my friend Norb Blei appears to have become since we were last together. I am even older ecept that I see my battered countenance in mirrors daily. But the sight of a friend from my middle aged years suddenly become old creaks the wellsprings of our mortality. Yet that is part of the reason why we have children. To remind us what we had once been and to carry fragments of ourselves into the future, cultivating a garden beyond the reaches of our own death. Carry on old Door County Homer! Harry Mark Petrakis

  27. Melinda Schaufer

    Hi Norb,
    Gorgeous tribute – what a good guy you are. It was a great week here at The Clearing last week, and I hope it was for you too!!!
    Take good care!!

  28. Gar Busha

    That bench you’re sitting on, could it be in Will’s Park? I like that spot. Good place to get lost in thought. I spent Father’s Day that way down here, lost in thought. Mostly good thoughts of you and Door.

  29. Thor Thoreson

    What a great joy it was watching those two grow up. And even greater seeing the adults they’ve become. Your obvious pride is well deserved.
    I take pride in being on Chris’s short list of “must stops” whenever he’s in county. It’s always a treat.
    Thanks for the posting pops.

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