by Russ Haddad

We waited . . . and we waited . . .

And then we decided to walk to where my mother worked a few miles away, the place where my father would have dropped us off after he picked us up from school. He would then head to work for the night shift as a machinist at Wyman-Gordon Company in my hometown of Worcester, Mass., a short distance from the bakery where my mother worked. That was the routine. Until today.

My older sister and I didn’t say anything as we walked up the big hill that is Dorchester Street and then down Dorchester Street, turning onto Vernon Street, crossing the bridge over Interstate 290 and then hitting Kelley Square onto Water Street. We didn’t really say much as we walked because we were both thinking the same thing.

And when we reached my mother’s workplace, she saw us and asked, “Where’s your father?”

Yes, my father died on that April day in 1981 of a massive heart attack. I was 12. I didn’t cry that day. I didn’t cry at the wake nor at the funeral. I was too overwhelmed. I wanted to. I was sad. I missed my father. But the tears wouldn’t come.

Unknowingly (or knowingly), I needed an outlet. I stumbled into writing poetry in my senior year at Doherty Memorial High School. I liked writing. I liked politics. I liked learning about how things, more accurately people, worked. So, my first venture into becoming a newspaperman, a boyhood dream, was to volunteer for The Charger, my high school newspaper.

One problem – the shyness that seemed to consume me at times took control again. I couldn’t get the courage to approach people for stories. What alternative did I have if I wanted to be on the school newspaper staff? And then someone suggested I write a poem for the Valentine’s Day issue.

Poetry stuck (with gaps) as I grew through my teenage angst, came of age in college, owned my own business, moved to another state and through a first marriage that ended terribly and embarrassingly. It continued through raising a wonderful son, career changes, getting remarried, and into the onset of middle age.

The Covid pandemic created another turning point in my life. I lost my job at Elizabeth City State University. Had time on my hands while I searched for work. Moved to Chapel Hill to live with my second wife for the first time since we got married eight years earlier. During the move I discovered old attempts at writing, including a collection of poems dating back to my high school newspaper days. I was inspired to start writing again.

As the pandemic wore on and the collection grew, I decided to self-publish my work under my adopted pen name A.A. Winston. That collection of poems became the book, Growth. And Growth is an extension of that bashful boy and hearkens back to those original high school poetry days.

I did reveal myself in the last issue of my senior year with the poem, “The Revelation.” In the meantime, I fulfilled my dream of becoming a newspaper reporter, writing many stories for four newspapers in Massachusetts and North Carolina. The poetry is what has endured, though.

You will never hear me say that the poems in Growth are epic masterpieces. The purpose of the book is to draw on the courage to let others see my writing and, I hope, to share some of the feelings and experiences I have had that allowed me to grow over the years.

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