Teaching My Father to Hug by W. D. Ehrhart

Teaching My Father to Hug

I had to teach my father how to hug.
For years, he’d grip me by both arms,
one hand on either bicep, firmly
holding me away from him, our bodies
never touching. I’ve no idea why.
Men don’t hug? Afraid he once held
tight, he’d not let go again? Beats me,
but in my thirties, I got married,
and he’d hug my wife the same way.

I finally decided this would just not do.
Every time he tried to grab my arms,
I’d step inside his grip and pull him
close to me, a bear hug he could not
escape. I did this time and time again
until he finally got the hint, gave up,
and hugged me back as if he meant it.

We had our problems, Dad and me,
a lifetime of arguments and ugly
moments and miscommunications,
but he learned to hug before he died,
and I feel pretty good about that.


W. D. Ehrhart is an ex-Marine sergeant and veteran of the American War in Vietnam. His latest book is Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company.

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