The Opposite House

by John Cardinal, July, 2007

Dedicated to Hank and Dot

The homes on the streets of my childhood came from one set of plans,
Our front door was on the right; it was on the left at McGann's.

Both of the houses were filled with children right to the top,
And one adult acted as both a parent and a cop.

At my house it was my Dad, at Nine Fairfield it was Dot,
At my house it was father, but at their house it was not.

That was a difference I learned when I was eight years old,
Sitting in McGann's kitchen, with my head under a bowl.

All around was a beehive; all around there was action,
Hank cutting my hair in that kitchen was no distraction.

Brian and Steve tried to sneak snacks as they waited for me,
Barbara on the telephone wanted one more minute please.

Bobby and David were almost grown; one of them ran in,
Said my hair looked just like his, and laughed, and then left again.

Mike was a toddler asking attention from his mother,
A little less annoying than my own little brother.

It was a noisy 60's household, and when the din became too much,
Dot raised her voice a bit and said "Everyone, that's enough!"

My mother could have said that a thousand times before we heard,
But the McGann household stopped with their Mother's first word.

The adults resumed conversation; they hardly missed a beat,
Then the kids resumed noise making, 'tho a little lighter in the feat.

Their house plan was opposite, and their Mom kept them in line,
But their house plan worked perfectly, and so did mine.

Copyright © 2007 by John Cardinal. All rights reserved.

These few lines came to me while thinking about the McGann family shortly after my friend Brian McGann died. I eventually came up with enough lines to tell the story, but what I know about poetry could be written on the head of a pin and I was reluctant to share this with anyone. My Uncle Tom (an uncle by marriage and by deed) is a poet; I am clearly not. These are lines that happen to rhyme.

Hank McGann died on July 15th, 2007 after living 90 years. He deserved 90 more. I had not seen him in a couple years and I regret that. When my father was very sick in 1964, Hank became a foster father to me for about a year. He took me to various father-son activities that my father couldn't manage at the time. Hank had six kids of his own, but he made time for me. Unbelievable. When I was a kid, I had no understanding of the effort that took. When I grew up and had children of my own, I came to appreciate what he did. I thanked Hank many times after that, but I could never thank him enough.