This week at a workshop on writing about one’s own personal history, which I was invited to lead at our UCC church, more than 50 people came. When Pastor Sal and I discussed having this workshop, we figured maybe a dozen or so would attend. 100 showed interest, but because of the size of the room, we had to limit participants to 50.

Sal and I discussed — why such interest in a class about exploring our histories? We think it’s because good souls are hungry for any opportunity to attend to what matters deeply to them, the events and people in their days. This discouraging time we are each absorbing has hijacked our consciousness, has lethally distracted us from the lives we deserve to live within. The three hours we spent together gave everyone an opportunity to care about what they actually do care about. And to be with like-hearted souls.

Here’s an excerpt from a message that arrived this week that links to this idea.

Dear Mister Ridl,
Normally I’m a reader, who doesn’t write to the authors I read, and also I’m not used to writing in English. But like many of the other new German readers you have, I feel so touched and so thankful for reading your poems and knowing about you in your house that I really want to thank you for that. Your poems and thoughts are graceful and gentle and they can comfort and foster. I need that so much – in everyday life, for I’m a primary school teacher and I need to be gentle with the children — but also in this present world, being so cruel and chaotic, for I’m a mother and want my children to grow up with hope and optimism. I always stand up very early, open the window and feel and smell the air and listen to the birds. Now, every Thursday I will also look for your poems. 

Greetings from Munich,

Natascha Guyton



He will come back–

in some small movement

of the line you draw, a word

you never said before,

a laugh, a sudden look.

You will be walking and the wind

will linger on your face. You’ll

know. His voice will drop

in rain, the snow. You’ll feel

his hand along the wood, in clay.

He’ll take his quiet presence

in your blood, your bones and cells.

He’ll stay.

for John Saurer

-Jack Ridl

First published in Yankee Magazine

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27 thoughts on “Grandfather

  1. As you know Jack, my dad died in December. This week via Facebook his grandchildren have been reaching out for stories that link them to this loving grandpa. The one that resonated most was when he would put them down for a nap and would say, “One dark stormy night, three tramps sat around the campfire light and say,” (insert name of grandchild) tell me a story, and they began, “One dark stormy night, three tramps…” and it would continue ending in giggles. I will share this poem with them. Thanks.

  2. Are you repeating the writing the writing class?

    I appreciate your Thursday posts and look forward reading them in Thursdays.

    Char Zoet

    From my iPhone


    • Hi Char,

      Sal and I have talked about repeating the workshop for sure. There were more than 50
      people who wanted to be there after it had filled. Whew.
      Thanks so much for telling me that you appreciate the Thursday Project. Knowing this
      certainly helps sustain it and this heart. One sends out a post and can’t know unless
      told if it’s landed where it wants and needs to be. Thank you for telling me.

  3. Tears this morning at these beautiful words. Thank you for this poem, Jack, and for all the love you put into the world. 💜

  4. Dear Jack, Yes and yes and yes. And, perhaps we are so eager to be in a room and write about our lives, our passions, our histories because we are forgetting how to listen and truly see each other. Every one of my college student therapy clients longs to be seen and heard. Thank you for sharing your words, and in those words, your love.

    • I’m moved, saddened. And I am so grateful for you and your overwhelming work.
      One approach I always, always took when I taught–and when I still work–is to
      make sure that I am SEEING and HEARING each student as a person unlike any other.

      Your writing here helps me so much. I do this work alone and toss it into the ether.
      I can’t know if it matters, can only hope–unless told. Please know how much it means
      that you told me.

      I can’t possibly imagine how many students to whom you have given another day, a way on.

  5. Oh Jack,Oh Jack… what finer honor then this woman’s for your work. How glad I am that you have lived long enough to know the value and beauty and hope you bring to so many. And to your own life too I hope…

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Whew. The messages from Germany have been overwhelming, hundreds of them, each from a life that
      knows and knows and knows. And I’m glad I’ve lived with you in my days. My gratitude is endless.

  6. Oh Jack!! What a gift this beautifully personal and expansive poem is for all of us! I was smelling the oily chains and saved bolts in the jars in my father’s garage, feeling the dip in the handle of his favorite hoe, picturing the easel with only the sky painted (so far) in my mother’s studio, sitting in the back seat in the silence of darkening evening, listening for the calls of the wood frogs with my mother-in-law. Thank you!!! And thank you for the lovely message from your reader in Germany. The gentleness calls to gentleness and thus grows stronger everywhere. What a marvelous influence: your poems, your good, kind heart!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Beth, to know that a little poem connected you to such loving emblems. Each of them is an
      embodiment of your own love. They would not have this deep meaningfulness were it not coming
      from lovingly attentive you.
      Thank you for telling me this. And thank you for your generously kind words about the Thursday Project.

  7. “Grandfather” is the poem that touched me many years ago after my dad died. I’m so happy to see it again, and am still moved by its words. Thank you!

    • Oh my gosh, Betsy. Oh oh my. What to say?
      I don’t know.
      But to think that little poem touched you in this important way is
      well, is overwhelming.

  8. Jack! Today’s post was simply the best. I needed it. I gobbled it down than went for another helping. I want to meet that German teacher in heaven for tea. And now that I’ve spoken that, well, who knows! I love that you and your words connect, unite, edify, solidify and are a very safe conduit for this boundless love that has been given for each of us, all of us. Ya made my day Buddyroe! Keep on keeping on with “da words” dear poet, tender fellow, good giver of love. XO!!!!!!!

    • Whoa! How do I respond to this loving message. It’s sure you–lovingly kind, full, rich, thoughtful beyond thought.
      And more.
      And I wanna send you two to Germany to meet your fellow teacher!
      Thank you. Oh my, thank you.

  9. Thank you for this lovely poem. I lost my mom two weeks ago, and it spoke to me as I endeavor to keep her memory alive. ❤️

    • Linda, I’m sorry. I never know what else to say. To think that this little tiny poem
      spoke to you is remarkable. For you to tell me is a gift beyond gifts. One writes without
      ever knowing if it matters unless told. One simply hopes. Thank you beyond the stars
      for telling me.

      And in the days ahead when grief ambushes you, I hope that comfort soon follows.

  10. Dear Jack Ridl , thank you so much for this wonderful poem. It is so true, so deeply true. Sometimes when I work in my garden, I feel my gandfather standing behind me. I can feel his presence and I am secure. Thank you and warmest regards from Cologne , Germany. Uschi

    • Uschi, yes. Ohhhhhh yes. I, too, when gardening time and again feel my father’s hand over mine, like a glove. We go into the earth together.
      Secure is an absolutely beautiful word, and a beautiful thing for me to know happens for you. Thank you sooooooo much for telling me this.
      To know we connected is a deep joy, a gift.

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