MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVI No. 3
December / January 2004
Financing MIT
Vest to the Faculty
Our New Look
The Search for a New President
Assigning a Final Grade When Some of the Work Has Not Been Completed
Identifying My Father
A Child's Chore
The Laboratory for Nuclear Science
Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology
LBGT Issues
Trans at the Institute
Making the Most of E-Mail: Popular Services, Recent Changes
OCW as Knight Errant
Individuals Appointed to the Faculty
1985 to Present
Printable Version

MIT Poetry

Identifying My Father

John Hildebidle

I'd hoped cremation would avoid this.
"But we wouldn't want a mixup
with the ashes," he said. At least no Muzak,
and he wasn't an unctuous hand-rubber
in a too-black suit. The chairs were
just shy of comfortable, magazines (all
about travel) were strewn on low tables:
the look of a Holiday Inn lobby.

A hallway. A room with three caskets. The guy
was polite, serious: "The one on the right."
We walked over, my mother and I, anything
but at ease. The head slowly came into view
over the wooden edge: a head full of white hair,
a narrow, bony face, and . . . a beard?
I'd expected a vast, sad change, but could this
be my brown-haired, portly, smooth-cheeked father?

The guy saw puzzlement in our eyes, looked down
at the false-leather folder he carried. "Oh,
Lord, " he said -- not loud, but you could hear
the shame in his voice. "It's next door."
Even more hesitant now, we followed, looked,
stood, signed papers, while the boss babbled apologies.

Nearly the last thing Dad said to me was,
"That's another story." Tale-lover, always working
the crowd, he'd have dined out on this one for months,
What I miss most about him, almost,
is his deft way with a punchline.

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