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Ash and Her Dad


You Didn't Have to Say It, Dad

(or "Ash and Her Dad")

By Kalen Marquis

Ashley’s papa was a strangely silent man.

Ashley lived all alone with her papa from the time she was knee-high-to-a-grasshopper and although she may have been shy to admit it, she loved him more than life itself.

Ashley’s papa, with his strange, silent ways, was not like the other papas. He could not be. Besides, all Ashley needed from the time when she was very young, was to see his softly glowing, gently knowing smile—a smile that wasn’t strange and a smile that was never silent.

Although few words passed over his dry, cotton candy lips, it was the joy-filled dents in his apple-blossom cheeks, his wrinkled chin, and his radiant star-lit eyes that called out to her, reassured her, told her everything would be okay. To Ashley, her papa’s smile spoke sometimes seriously, sometimes mysteriously—but it always spoke.

No matter how much time might pass or what would happen, there was nothing quite as light or loving as her papa’s softly glowing, gently knowing smile. It was amazing how those upturned lips laughed and joked and how they taught, cheered, corrected and cajoled. And they comforted. They comforted like nothing else in the world.

Sometimes—those times she would never forget—it would even sing in soft rhythms, gently cooing the words to a love song she alone could hear.

For Ashley, that smile had always been there. It was there when she was teeny-tiny, just a pudgy baby asleep in daddy’s arms, when was turning three, a time before words could explain why mom “flew away with the angels,” and when she started school, just five years old and scared—yet eager—to read and write and draw and paint and play!

It was there when she fell from a tree, just twelve years old (going on twenty!) and already so grown up. When she graduated from high school, just eighteen years old, desperate to take on the world and make it her own. And later, when she had grown into a woman, strong and smart like her mother, and yet curiously quiet like her dad. And now, when Ashley went to see her father in hospital on that warm, spring night that he died.

It was then that she held his soft, wrinkled hand and basked in the brilliance of that same softly glowing, gently knowing smile.

Although nothing could ever cut as deep or mean as much as the gentle stillness that had united them—the strange, glowing silence that had traversed the generations—this is what passed between them. This is what I, the eavesdropper, overheard.

Leaning forward, craning at the neck until she was so close that he could feel her long, golden hair resting on his chest, Ashley’s papa spoke these words:

Now listen close, Ash. 

Get yourself near. 

I have a few words 

I want you to hear. 

It seems now is the time 

To let you know that I care 

I have a lifetime of words 

I’ve been meaning to share. 

But where to begin? 

I’ve waited so long, 

For just the right moment 

To come along. 

Now is that moment. 

I’ll start right here. 

Just one word at a time 

I’ve nothing to fear. 

So here I go, 

Turning thoughts into words. 

Just letting them go

They need to be heard. 

The years have moved on 

Now my glasses are thick 

Your papa’s an old man 

So frail and sick

My back is rounded 

My joints knotted and sore 

My muscles are weak 

Not here for much more. 

My hands are feeble 

Sallow, sickly, white 

But you’re holding them, Ash 

You’re holding on tight 

My moments are numbered 

I’ll be going away 

But I’ll always be with you 

I’ll be smiling this way. 

So here I go, Ash 

This is as good as it gets. 

Listen carefully my girl 

I’m doing my best 

This is my advice 

This is all that there is 

All that I’ve learned 

All that I’ve lived 

“Now” isn’t “perfect” 

It may never be 

But accept it and love it 

It’s as it should be. 

Don’t hope just for “good”

And don’t fear the “bad” 

Just be in this moment 

Treasure all that you have

Prepare for tomorrow 

And learn from yesterday 

This moment is all we have

So don’t forget to play! 

Please don’t try TOO hard 

Don't forget WHO you are  

Allow things to unfold 

Believe in your star! 

Don’t worry, don’t race 

Don’t struggle and strive 

Breathe out, relax. . . 

Be happy you’re alive! 

Be gentle and effortless 

Try to be kind 

This moment’s a jewel--

The most precious you’ll find. 

There’s so much goodness 

In your heart and mind. 

It’s your own buried treasure 

The richest you’ll find 

Do not wish it away 

Don’t keep yearning for more 

Your life will seem dull 

Nothing more than a chore 

The moment will come 

When you finally believe 

It will all become clear

What you’re meant to achieve 

Some say when God closes a door 

He opens a window 

There is always fresh air--

Just let the wind blow 

So be patient and waait

Listen really deep. 

Smile precious smiles 

As you drift off to sleep. 

If you think you’re forgotten 

And life’s passed you by 

Faithfully wait and awaken 

Until you start feeling spry! 

You’ll go right to your work 

You’ll know what to do 

It won’t take any effort— 

Just more play for you! 

The waiting will have stopped 

And so will the rest. 

But if doubt comes again— 

Just know it's a test! 

Will you stop and listen? 

Will you yield and rest? 

Will you flit about thinking 

Your way is the best? 

We get bull-headed and pushy 

We cut against the grain 

And sometimes life’s saw 

Springs back on us again! 

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” 

My dad used to say. 

“Just leave it alone.” 

“It was meant to be that way.” 

Life is a domino train 

Built one piece at a time. 

Every piece is important. 

A crucial link in the line. 

Life is like snakes and ladders. 

You climb up and slide down. 

Once you realize it’s a game 

There is no need to frown. 

Don’t meddle or fuss 

Don’t make your life hard 

Don’t overthink it— 

Just be who you are! 

Be in the moment. 

Don’t worry it away. 

Now is all you have 

So, live for today! 

Don’t try to take over 

Though it’s your life it’s true 

Just share the gifts 

That were given to you! 

Go ahead! I dare you! 

Believe in your star! 

You won’t be forgotten 

The future’s not far 

Be curious and open 

And watch for that star 

It will shine through the clouds 

It knows just where you are! 

The present’s a gift 

Wrapped in foil with a bow 

If you're smart, you’ll unwrap it 

You’ll give it a go! 

Inside’s a toy! 

No assembly required 

There will be some directions 

Just don’t make them too hard. 

Just like a kid 

Whose imagination runs away 

Just play with that gift. . . 

The toy called Today! 

Do your work with happiness 

And play with great joy! 

When it all seems like too much 

Dust off your wee toy! 

You’ll always get tired 

If you swim upstream 

So have faith and trust 

Believe in your dreams 

Don’t dally with hope 

Free yourself from fear 

Relax! Take a load off! 

There’s a reason you’re here! 

You can’t have tomorrow 

You can only have today 

Yesterday’s long gone 

It has faded away 

Life is a puzzle 

Built one piece at a time 

Just live each moment fully 

And I know you’ll be fine 

If you hope only for sunshine 

And fear the next rainy day 

This moment has been lost 

You’ve tossed it away 

Dreams are fine and good 

They may eventually come true 

But don’t sell this moment 

This life… 

It’s happening for YOU! 

If you cannot decide--

You don’t know what to do-- 

Just let go and love. . . 

Time will help make it for you. 

I know what you’re thinking 

It’s all so easy to say 

I have all that I wanted 

But it wasn’t always this way 

I did have all I wanted 

But I didn’t SEE it that way 

I got caught up with wanting— 

Needing it all my own way 

I spent many years hoping 

And dreaming great dreams 

I spent many years wondering… 

What does this mean? 

It all served a purpose 

I did the best that I could 

But I was riddled with tension 

My life a big “should” 

It took many years 

Until I was ready to snap. 

When I finally let go… 

Good fortune fell in my lap! 

I still like to question 

But I’ve learned not to doubt 

I set aside hopes and fears 

They’re not what life’s about 

I started to trust 

To just love who and where I am 

I said with Popeye’s laugh 

“I yam who I yam” 

I’ve let others find fault 

They’re so smart and they know 

They can pick on me 

And leave the others alone 

I have let them hurt me 

Without fighting back 

Violence is violence 

Enough. Of. That. 

For all that hatred 

And all that fear 

Rebounds on the sender 

That much is clear. 

Some call me a sucker 

Others call me a sap 

But love is the draft 

That’s always on tap 

That’s it. I digress. 

I’m getting carried away 

That’s just what happens 

When you live for today. 

You have extra energy 

And a big, smiling face 

You know how to laugh 

And do so with grace. 

Everything gets simpler 

The heavy load falls away 

Prayers are answered 

And you didn't need to pray. 

Anger and exhaustion are cues. 

It’s time to switch gears 

To relish the moment 

And let go of fears. 

I’ve lived my life well 

I’ve lived and I’ve learned 

To relish each moment 

Not one would I spurn 

I have no more hopes 

My life’s taken care of itself 

I delegated the “work” 

To Santa’s wee elves 

They are happy and spirited 

They always love to give 

Like holly-jolly Santa 

On and on they will live 

Death is as natural as life 

The two go together 

They cannot be separate 

One defines the other 

My body’s an instrument

A vessel I called my own 

Soon it will be vacant 

It came only on loan 

And just like my body 

My life's no more than a loan 

Precious time spent with you 

Before heading on home. 

Go ahead and pause 

Take a rest when I’m gone 

But please don’t mourn 

Sing your happiest song. 

The world will not stop 

It moves quickly through space 

It will always hurtle on 

So don’t lose your place. 

Life just keeps going 

It won’t lose its pace. 

So don’t try to stop 

The great human race. 

Life can be random 

And hectic and wild 

But it’s chock-full of meaning 

Don’t forget that my child. 

Hold onto the stillness 

Let life whirl around you. 

Trust in the silence 

The gentle breath inside you 

Reach out to others. 

Don’t go it alone. 

You can’t do it all

Although you’re all grown. 

Live by your values 

And listen to your heart 

They've been there to guide you 

From the very start 

Don’t look out or up 

Just look way, way in. 

Trust your deep inner voice 

The only place to begin. 

Just like my little girl 

When she first learned to walk 

Acknowledge each hurt 

And then dust yourself off. 

Go ahead and cry. 

You must now and then. 

And then when you’re ready 

Take off once again. 

Your path is waiting 

Its waiting only for you. 

One step at a time 

It’s all up to you. 

That’s all for now. 

That’s all I can say. 

I’ve talked so much 

Now I’m fading away 

Don’t worry dear Ash 

I'll never really be gone 

I’ll always be with you 

And you’ll never go wrong. 

I guess that is it. 

That’s all I can say. 

I’ll always love you 

Though my smile fades away 

The smile on my lips 

Was given life by my spirit 

It tried to speak volumes 

I just hoped you could hear it 

Of all that I’ve said 

Remember just this— 

Hold it deep in your heart 

And you’ll never miss— 

Above all, remember, 

It comes down to just this. 

Never, ever forget 

It’s as simple as this: 







* * * 

And with that he was gone 

He had passed away. 

Yet his smile was still with her 

It would not go away. 

But that wasn’t all. 

It was her turn to respond. 

Ash spoke these words 

To her papa so fond: 


Now listen close, Papa. 

I know you’re still here. 

I’ve got a few words 

I want YOU to hear. 

I love you dear Papa 

And thank you again. 

But you didn’t have to say it 

My papa, my friend. 

You weren’t a man of words 

You didn’t need to be. 

Yet you saved them all up 

To pass on to me. 

You didn’t need words 

You were so full of love 

And yet these words. . . 

They fit like a glove. 

We spoke the same language 

Just a papa and his girl 

Yet you still had to say it 

You gave it a whirl 

Thank you so much for sharing 

Squeezing your love into words 

Your helped me to soar 

Taking flight with the birds 

Your expressions were funny 

And often so quaint 

You gave breath to your feelings 

Though tired and faint 

You told me you loved me 

And I love you, too. 

You ran every last base 

Between me and you! 

I didn’t expect it 

I love you just as you are 

You led by example 

And believed in your star

But now you are gone 

Our time’s at an end 

But I will always, always love you 

My papa, my friend 

Now all is quiet 

Except for your mile 

Your greatest gift as a father 

To his ever-loving child. 

What can I give you? 

What can I say? 

I will treasure your teaching 

A smile that won’t fade away 

I’ll just BE who I am 

And DO what I do. 

This life, this smile 

They're gifts from you. 

You’re gone dear Papa 

You’ve faded away 

Your smile’s deep within me 

It wont’ go away 

Just watch me dear Papa 

Like you used to. 

When I first rode my bike 

And circled back to you 

Just watch me dear Papa 

From wherever you are 

I’ll listen for your voice 

I’ll watch for your star. 

When I’m scared or lonely 

Wondering what to do 

I’ll smile your smile

It connects me to you. 

All those years that went by 

When you seldom said a word 

Your smile was so silent 

Yet its message was heard 

Your dimples did speak 

Your wrinkled chin would quiver and call 

Your sparkling eyes would wink 

But your smiling lips said it all. 

Your smile is like a star that guides 

One so very softly glowing 

Your smile is like a long-lost friend 

So very gently knowing 

I’ll see you in the apple blossoms 

So clean and pure and bright 

I’ll see you every star-lit evening 

Laughing, loving, twinkling— 

Lighting up the night! 

With you looking down 

There is no more to say. 

My life will move on 

Though I leave you here today. 

And you know dear Papa, 

There is just one more thing: 






* * * 

And with that she was gone 

She turned bravely away 

It was time to move on 

In her now grown-up way. 


And it’s funny, although many years passed before I saw her again, 

Her dimples. . . they did speak 

Her wrinkled chin would quiver and call. 

Her sparkling eyes they did wink 

But her smiling lips.. . 

Said. It. All.  


© 1999 Kalen Marquis