Tag: family relationships

Fatherhood Explores Parenting from Dad’s Perspective

Any way you look at it, parenting is rife with challenges and joys. Fatherhood ~ Poems of Parenthood, the latest book by author/musician C.S. Fuqua, published by UK-based Stairwell Books, explores the facets of parenting from a father’s perspective in 90 poems written over a 30-year period.

In 1991, Fuqua became an “at-home dad” charged with the day-to-day care of a newborn daughter. He and his spouse Bonnie were what the media then called a new breed of parents, those who chose not to settle into traditional roles of woman-as-homemaker, man-as-breadwinner. While his wife pursued a career in public service, Fuqua established himself as a freelance writer. 

In the lean, early years of marriage, the couple had dismissed the idea of becoming parents, Fuqua said, “because we weren’t ready for parenthood—not monetarily, not intellectually, not emotionally.” By age thirty-five and their thirteenth wedding anniversary, “We’d become financially stable and decided it was time.” 

Beginning with two miscarriages, the couple found themselves on an emotional rollercoaster like they’d never experienced before, one that only intensified with the birth of their daughter. “But something magical happened,” Fuqua said. “With most of my time now devoted to her, our daughter became my primary creative muse, and I began to devote much of my writing to the exploration of parenthood—the daily experiences, insecurities, failures, successes.” 

Fuqua spent most days caring for the couple’s daughter, playing with her, taking her on exploratory walks, conversing with and reading to her as though she understood every word, involving her in social development situations, and sharing all duties with his spouse in the evenings, on weekends, and her days off—all about which he wrote in poetry, in fiction, and in journal-style letters to their daughter that he continues to write today.

In 2007, Uncial Press published a collection of 38 of Fuqua’s parenting-related poems entitled The Swing ~ Poems of Parenthood, which won the Best Poetry Collection EPIC Award for 2008 and remained in print for the next fourteen years. In 2021, Fuqua decided to expand the collection with poems he’d written since its publication, more than doubling the number of The Swing’s original poems, all of which are included in Fatherhood

Fatherhood chronicles 30 years of parenting experiences, from pregnancy to the child’s adulthood—the joy, sorrow, insecurity, confidence, anxiety, calm, irrationality, fear, pride, confusion, clarity, mourning, celebration, hope, and so much more—“all due,” Fuqua said, “to one extraordinary young woman who’s astounded her mom and me from day one with her intellect, humanity, and grace.”

Fatherhood ~ Poems on Parenthood is available through most bookstores and directly from Stairwell Books at https://www.stairwellbooks.co.uk/product/fatherhood/.

Fuqua has been writing professionally since 1979. His published books include White Trash & Southern ~ Collected Poems, Walking after Midnight ~ Collected Stories, Big Daddy’s Fast-Past Gadget (SF novel), Hush, Puppy! A Southern Fried Tale (children’s book), and Native American Flute ~ A Comprehensive Guide, among others. His short fiction and poetry have appeared in hundreds of national and international publications as diverse as Rattle, The Pearl, Cemetery Dance, The Christian Science MonitorMain Street Rag, and Year’s Best Horror Stories. Learn more about his writing and music at http://csfuqua.com.

A powerful but tender chronicling of his daughter’s birth and growth by the master of the American Horror genre and exponent of the Native American flute. A reminder that, while we hew our children from granite, we are ourselves shaped and crafted by their love.

Stairwell Books

Fatherhood by CS Fuqua is a lyrical journal of childrearing, from tragedy of miscarriage to a difficult birth through childhood. Fuqua shares the growth and molding of this parent/child relationship, focusing on the joy of watching his daughter become her own person, tinged with the sad knowledge that she will eventually leave home. “When the Bird Has Flown” sums it up nicely: “Rushing through the moments, / the forgettable and the milestones, / sprinting headlong from one / to the next, / and the next, / unaware of loss, / no pause to consider or savor, / centered instead / on what mysteries lie ahead, / always ahead…” Recommended.

M. Scott Douglass, Publisher/Managing Editor The Main Street Rag, author of Just Passing Through (Paycock Press, 2017)

C.S. Fuqua’s latest poetry collection, Fatherhood: Poems on Parenthood, is a delightful and emotionally insightful work about the challenges and day-by-day revelations of a father who makes it his vocation to raise a daughter with grace, integrity, and much love. The poems in this volume are tightly crafted, lyrical gems, filled with learned wisdom, wry humor, and humanistic dignity, as this poet/father documents his daughter’s life from infancy to young womanhood, and shares with the reader the glorious journey of his own life lessons, attempting to be a good and nurturing parent.

Davidson Garrett, author of Arias of a Rhapsodic Spirit

C.S Fuqua’s transcendent verses encapsulate the many moods and dispositions of fatherhood. His reflections are compelling, affecting, witty and tender. A recommended read for the expectant father.”

Ali Kinteh, author of The Nepenthe Park Chronicles

There’s a beautifully composed realness that shapes C.S. Fuqua’s poetry. I reveled in his language and storytelling. I want to gift this book to all my friends and family who are new parents, older parents and all future parents, because this is about life and love. It is a layered journey and Fuqua brings us into his unique, somewhat familiar “home” through poetry that we can dwell in. 

Laura Kerr, Canadian Artist & Poet

The power of C.S. Fuqua’s poetry lies in the relentless chronicling of real people with real sorrow, triumph, regret, and above all, the sad beauty of the human experience. Superb poetry from American poet and musician, C.S. Fuqua.

Tony Nesca, Author of About A Girl (Screaming Skull Press)

Few have the deft touch for poetry as does C.S. Fuqua. He is not shackled by the bonds of rhyme, but is instead freed by language, each word, each phrase, each sentence weaving a complete story in just a few lines. This is what poetry is supposed to be. Take for example the phrase in the poem “Cabinet”: “…doing her damnedest to reach the bug spray.” In this last phrase of one of his introductory poems we see the oncoming future of Fuqua and his daughter as he devotes his life to keeping her safe. In the poem, “The Chant,” we have the phrase, “She sees skin as a rainbow.” The personality of his daughter is there in that one short phrase. The rest of the words beautifully support, but this one short phrase tells us everything we need to know about his beloved daughter. Sometimes Fuqua reaches for a beautiful image in a full line, like in the poem, “Tokyo Fabric”: “He nods at my daughter, reflecting her grin, the cat purring like soft forest rain, the universe melting under those fingers, that fur, that sound.” Fuqua says he loves poetry because it’s a challenge to write a complete story in a poem. You will read many short stories in Fatherhood

Dick Claassen, Author of Sacred Native American Flute

Literary Themes Rooted in Childhood

Insecurity and salvation.

These two themes recur often yet unplanned in the fiction and poetry I write. They usually emerge from a character’s self-doubt, countered by an unrealistic belief that situations, no matter how awful or threatening, will eventually turn out okay, that adversity will ultimately surrender to peace. But why do these particular themes keep showing up?

A few years ago, a political disagreement with my father ignited in him a firestorm of condemnation of other cultures and races—never mind the mixed racial heritage of my spouse and our daughter. Communication ended abruptly in mutual expletives. After more than five decades, he and I were finally done. I figured I’d never hear from him again, that the next time I visited him would be at his graveside.

The relationship with my father has always been tenuous at best. I felt safe with him only once—in 1958 as he carried me through the hospital parking lot on my way to a tonsillectomy. I was two. Fear soon obliterated that initial sense of safety, thanks to repeated episodes of rage, from verbal abuse and an eagerness to fight, to animal cruelty and domestic violence, a few incidents recounted in my published fiction.

My parents separated when I was twelve. I’d spent that summer of 1968 working in my father’s Phillips 66 service station in Crestview, Florida—sometimes alone and always under order to wear a “Wallace for President” Dixieland hat and campaign necktie. Dad’s small, two-pump station had three restrooms in back, designated as “Men,” “Women,” and “Restroom,” the third to which he directed people of color.

In the station’s front window, he’d hung a hand-drawn recreation of an auto tag that read “Put your (heart symbol) in Dixie, or get your (donkey symbol) out.” One hot day, a traveller from a northern state noticed the sign after I’d gassed his car. “If I’d seen that damn thing,” he snarled, “I wouldn’t have stopped.” I was glad my father was away at the time. Otherwise, a fight would have certainly ensued.

Bizarrely hot-tempered, my father was quick to violence. I witnessed such fury that crippled and killed animals and bruised and broke people both emotionally and physically. I felt a flood of relief and freedom when my parents split and I ended up in Pensacola, Florida, fifty miles from Crestview and my father. Marrying his second wife shortly after the divorce finalized the following year, he moved some forty-five miles north to his hometown, Andalusia, Alabama. With his wife’s deft support, he established a used car dealership that provided a good income, even though he faced legal problems at one point for buying and selling stolen cars. Due more to his wife’s business savvy than his public charm or honesty, he skirted prosecution and became wealthier than he’d ever imagined he would, though it had no effect on his refusal to pay child support, doling out only small portions when I visited him.

During my visits that never exceeded two days, he appeared to have mellowed since the divorce—specifically, his propensity to violence had apparently evaporated. I became jealous of his wife’s two sons whom he’d adopted. They, I believed, enjoyed the father I craved, a reasonable man who respected them enough to do what a parent should do. The emotional distance between us increased while the frequency of my visits decreased. Only after his death did I become aware of the psychological and physical violence he waged against his new family.

My father’s wife died in April 2015, succumbing to cancer. During her decline, her children visited her at home, but not without consequence. When his wife’s daughter said she would not move into my father’s home to take care of him after her mother’s death, he became so livid he threatened to kill her if she ever returned for any reason. She didn’t. When his oldest adopted son visited his mother a few days before she died, my father accused the son of plotting to steal his money and slugged him. The son responded instinctively, knocking my father to the floor.

“Get out!” my father raged. “Get out before I kill you! I’ll put you in the ground you ever come here again!”

Increased paranoia followed his wife’s death and led to rabid accusations that relatives were constantly plotting to steal his land and money. He threatened to kill many and alienated all but one, a cousin whose tolerance ensured the care he needed.

Already receiving thrice-weekly kidney dialysis before his wife’s death, my father had developed a notorious reputation among Andalusia’s medical workers for verbally abusing doctors and dialysis personnel. In early August 2016, he suffered a mild heart attack that placed him in a hospital where doctors determined he’d require rehabilitation center placement upon release. Facilities in his hometown, thanks to his reputation, refused to take him, necessitating placement in a Crestview facility where he existed under sedation most of the time. Shortly after placement, my cousin informed me that his condition had begun to deteriorate rapidly, that he suffered from advanced diabetes, kidney disease, and increasing dementia.

Living in New Mexico, I decided not to visit him. Any possibility of reconciliation, no matter how remote, had surely vanished within his sedation and dementia. Then my wife’s brother in Pensacola died unexpectedly, and we made the 1,350-mile drive to attend his memorial, placing us within forty minutes of the Crestview rehab facility.

On a rainy Wednesday morning in a town that’s grown unrecognizably large since my childhood, the nurse in the rehab facility’s locked wing pointed out my father at the end of a line of wheelchair-bound patients parked along one wall. The greasy pompadour he’d worn most of his adult life had been replaced by shorter hair, brushed into a faux mohawk, the result of a nurse’s playfulness. He stared blankly toward the opposite wall, murmuring. I knelt before his chair and took his hand.


He slowly turned his gaze.

“You know me?”

After a moment, he nodded almost imperceptibly.

“Who am I?”

He smiled slightly. “Ray,” he whispered.

“No, not Ray.” I had no idea who Ray was. “Try again.”

Something clicked. His face tightened, his lips parted slightly, and he began to cry. “Chris…”

Just as quickly, his expression muddled, and the stare returned. He nodded. And nodded again.

I engaged him in talk as best as possible and took a few photographs.

He held my hand off and on, muttering things like, “I used to have lots of money. No more. It’s okay, it’s okay. Madelyn [his deceased wife] is coming soon.”

Aides began wheeling patients to the dining room for lunch.

“You seen Mama?” he asked. His mother had died some forty years earlier. “She ain’t been by.”

“No, but you’ll see her soon,” I said. “She’s waiting.”

A shadow of a smile played on his lips. He nodded once. “I love everybody.” He nodded again. “Everybody loves me.”

“I’m sure they do.”

He leaned slightly forward. “I’m proud…”

My breath caught as I thought for just a moment that, at last, he was about to express something he’d never before expressed.

“I’m proud,” he whispered again, “real proud of my life.”

I let the breath go. “Yeah, you should be.”

He sat back.

An African-American nurse arrived to take him to the dining room. My father, whose racist rants were legendary, reached for her hand and grinned.

“She’s nice,” he said. “People…people’s the same everywhere.”

The nurse positioned herself behind the chair.

“We need to go,” I said. “Time for you to get some lunch.”

He raised a hand toward my wife—that at one time unsuitable, racially-diverse person who’d married me thirty-eight years before.

“I love you,” he whispered.

She hugged him lightly.

He then held his hand out to me. His face twisted momentarily as though he might cry again.

“I love you,” he said. And he nodded.

“Yeah, I love you, too, Dad.”

His eyes glazed.

I lowered his hand to his lap.

The nurse said, “Y’all can wait or come back after lunch if you’d like.”

We thanked her and stepped aside, and she wheeled him away.

Six days later, the day after our return to New Mexico, he died. My cousin said that he had been en route from dialysis to the rehabilitation center when he went to sleep for the last time.

I didn’t travel to Andalusia for the funeral, but my cousin filled me in. The preacher of the church my father attended—designated as a primary recipient of Dad’s estate after he disinherited his adopted children and me—delivered a glowing tribute that had some attendees wondering who the hell the preacher was talking about.

That’s fine.

Southern preachers consider eulogies sacred opportunities to exploit insecurity to harvest souls by lobbing sizable chunks of fire and brimstone while praising the exceptional life of the dearly departed, now cozied up in heaven with Jesus.

What does it hurt?

Most of us—kind or cruel—reach for higher standards at some point. And we all fail in different degrees. It’s okay to remember people as better than they were. It’s okay to grant a little salvation.

At some point, I’ll stand at my father’s graveside, keenly aware of how he influenced me to strive to be his opposite, of how he will always affect the characters and themes in my fiction and poetry.

Perhaps I’ll thank him.

Perhaps not.

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