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What’s New, What’s Hip, What’s Happenin’

By Briana McGuckin

Divorce divided my childhood

Into two Christmases, two Easters, two birthdays and, later,

When I’d moved out of my mom’s, two phone calls

To catch both parents up on what my father termed

“what’s new, what’s hip, what’s happenin’”  


When I was young the other kids were jealous

Of double the presents, double the candy, and I hadn’t

The words to explain, but now I can tell you:

It wasn’t like that. It was half now, half later,

With a long wait between. I made the halves whole

By myself, afterward, lining them up, hiding the split


Through the years my dad would ask me if

I needed anything and when I’d say no: “I’d do anything for you,

You know that? I’d lop off my arm for you.”

I believed it as an act of bravery, and never thought til now, right now,

That he might have been asking to take the pain of the split for me


Death subtracted my dad from my childhood

(I was not a child, I was 29, but I am his child;

neither adulthood nor death can change that.)

I have half a Christmas, half an Easter, half a birthday,

I make one phone call

And when I hang up I say to my husband:

“It feels like I’m missing an arm.”


Because I cannot call my dad to tell him

What’s new, what’s hip, what’s happened since he died:

My house got painted, renovated; I went back to school full-time;

I’m getting published, again, and some of the stories have

Your words in them, mixed in with mine; I finally found a coffee I like;

Tony’s dad died, but he told him first – he told him everything and

He accepted him, like you accepted me; Joshua got hired, laid off, hired

And left that job to take another one, one at which his big heart

Is not heavy, is not a hindrance, but is a Required Qualification;

We had Christmas morning here with Mom, and by mistake

I almost ate a moldy chocolate from the toe of my stocking that

Had been there since last year, when you were still alive;

I might go to Ireland, and I wish we had all gone together like

We were supposed to, we almost did, if only we had known


If we hadn’t spoken in a few days or a week my dad would say:

“I’m sorry it’s been awhile, but you know you’re always on my mind

And I know the same is true for you. There isn’t a day that goes by that

I don’t think of you.” And now it’s been more than a year

And the same is true, even though I think he can’t think of me anymore.


I tripped on some sidewalk, a glass bottle shattered in my hand, and

I needed seven stitches – six in my wrist, one in my palm. I just missed

The artery they said, it was a lot of blood, but my dad would’ve laughed

At all the jokes I made with all the people who helped me, later when I called

To tell him what had happened. But I only made one phone call


While the phone was ringing I planned what I should say so that

My mom would understand: I have been hurt, but

I am not missing an arm

And I will be okay.

Filed under: cerebral palsy, childhood, poetry, writing

About the Author

Posted by

I write fantasy and gothic romance. I also happen to have cerebral palsy, be genderfluid (pretty sure that's where I'm landing), and I nurse a deep affection for Tim Curry. Some of my favorite books are by Charlotte Bronte, Daphne du Maurier, Bram Stoker, Thomas Hardy, Sarah Waters, and Stephen King. If you would like to buy me a coffee, I'd totally drink it:

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