My Mom, my Dad and Me

Winter SunIt was deep in the winter of 1995. Mom was at the end of a long illness. She was dying. We called for the parish priest. He came and administered last rites. When the priest left I was sitting with mom and she said “I must be pretty bad if the priest came. I must be dying.” I couldn’t answer. I just nodded my head. Mom folded her hands in her lap then looked at me. She blinked back tears and said “I don’t want to leave my family.” I don’t know where the words came from but I said “Mom, in heaven there is no time or space. We will all be waiting there for you.” She looked out the living room window for a moment then said “I guess it will be alright then”.

Mom slipped into a coma a few days later. She lay in the bed mom and dad had shared for over five decades. Dad hardly left her side. She died the next day before noon. After the funeral dad and some of us were sitting at the kitchen table. I really can’t remember who else was there because I had withdrawn even deeper than usual. Dad began to speak –

I want to tell you about what happened the night before Florence died. I always held your mother’s hand at night even then, when she was in a coma. It was after midnight when I felt her hand move. The bedside lamp was still on and I sat up and watched her. Her grip tighten then she opened her eyes and smiled up at me. At that moment I felt all the happiness and all the joy of the life we had lived together.

Dad smiled through his tears and looked at each of us as if wondering whether or not we could comprehend what he had just described.

Understanding came to me slowly. It has been two decades since that day. Now, because of my father’s gift to me, I don’t reach for the brass ring of a good relationship. I seek the Holy Grail of a love and devotion that not only goes beyond the grave but is greater than anything I can ever hope to understand.

   The Rain

I release the faint and reassuring pressureLexmarkAIOScan15

of my fingertip on the trigger there.

I let loose my death grip,

hug my weapon like a teddy bear.


The rain keeps coming, more thick than strong,

washing the chemical hurt from the hill

whose side we huddle on.


I can’t say I feel safe, more embraced

by a subtle act of God.

Surely the most hardened Vietcong will not violate

this night of washing clean.

©Tom Puetz 2010



 I must get closer to the bone, cut deep, not stay my hand,

So you can understand the anguish, of the  soldier in the sand.

 It was my choice, my heart’s desire, so please don’t get me wrong.

When I heard the call to arms, I gladly went along.

 Yet I want to blame the ones who sent me, made me feel like damaged goods.

I want them to feel the horror of the  soldier in the woods.

 I fought my war for freedom, to keep the home fire safe.

I came back from Vietnam, to find I had no place.

 I want America to know, combat did not break my will.

In the end it was the sadness, of the  soldier on the hill.

 When a nation sends it’s best to war, to show the power it can wield,

I want all to know the price that’s paid by the  soldier in the field.

 A soldier’s family knows too well, the grief that has been sewn.

They stand beside, but cannot touch, their soldier home alone.

 When you raise the call to war, no matter what the reasons,

In the end, you break the heart, of the soldier for all seasons.


1,000 Yard Stare (c) Tom Puetz 1970
1,000 Yard Stare (c) Tom Puetz 1970


Combat Rage

Battle Rage

This rage—I can’t really measure, goes on forever.
Can’t contain it, can’t make it stop, can’t see the end.
This fugitive sample of combat survival
can’t be buried. I am always harried by…

This rage—kept growing when you said “Welcome home”, instead of,
We’re sorry, we didn’t know about the death of tenderness,
the killing, the price paid, and…

This Rage—Is a partition held in place by my lack of contrition;
A division risen on backs turned, eyes averted;
A wall, polished and black, with no shelf to receive retribution.
No portal that understanding passes, only the reflection of…

This Rage—you won’t accept in me, a soldier
you sent to hold your honor in sacred trust,
and so disguised the violence as valor.
You reveled in my bravery now demand I hide my frailty, and…

This Rage—

© Tom Puetz, 2011