Up on the Roof

Today I feature a second guest post by a Brandywine Writers’ Circle member, TCDavis.  Tom grew up in Wilmington, as this post will reveal.  He’s a photogapher, as well as a writer.  A photo of his heads the post, which is entitled, “Up on the Roof”.


photo by TCDavis

I ran in the Y this morning, around the banked gray track above the main gym.  That track was so terrifying when I was a boy!  There was no protective railing at the bottom, so a kid tripping at a curve might slip beneath the first rail and plunge to the basketball court below. This was my constant fear, at any rate.

I’m no longer a child, and there is a finer spaced barrier all around the track now, so I run without fear.  I run remembering how Dad loved this place. I run imagining him as a young man, striding this very path, round and round, strong and confident.

The rising sun is streaming through the thick block glass of the eastern wall, bathing the track in a tawny glow, and I feel my father’s spirit, strong and confident, and pleased that I’m following in his footsteps.

Dad was an athlete:  Golden Gloves boxer and gymnast.  He could walk on his hands in the loose beach sand, and glide like an airplane flying backwards over the winter ice of Twin Lakes.  In his body he possessed the grace he lacked in personality.  Who knows whether he would have been equally graceful in that way, had he felt as safe at home as he did at the Y.

Home was not safe for him.  I learned this when he was recovering from a heart bypass operation, and I, emboldened by years of schooling and therapy, dared to ask:  “Was there domestic violence when you were growing up?”

He lowered his gaze and nodded yes.  That was all I got.  I wanted to ask whether he had been hit, but decided to let that be.  Dad had told me once that he overheard his mother and father arguing, and revealing in their rage that neither had wanted him to be born.  What a blow that must have been!  Violence to the very soul.

When Dad’s health was failing his blood chemistry went kerflooey.  He was hallucinating.  I was in his hospital room during one such episode.

I asked him, “Where are you, Dad?

“I’m on the roof of the YMCA,” he replied.

“What are you doing up there?”

“Enjoying the view! It’s so beaufiful!”

When he had regained ordinary consciousness I told him what he said he had seen.


“”Yes,” he explained.  I would hang out at the Y as long as I could, in the pool, at the gym, up on the roof.”

“Why the roof, Dad?”

“There was a concession stand up there.  I’d eat a sandwich and look out over the city.  It was a grand view.  Made me feel good.”

When Dad got so sick he couldn’t leave his bedroom I took pictures of the Y and mounted them in a large frame, with a clipping of the lyrics of the Drifters’song:

“When this old world starts getting me down

And people are just too much for me to face

I climb way up to the top of the stairs

And all my cares just drift right into space


On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be

And there the world below can’t bother me.


Let me tell you now . . . .

Right smack dab in the middle of town

I’ve found a paradise that’s trouble proof, up on the roof.

And if this world starts getting you down

There’s room enough for two

Up on the roof, up on the roof.


That reminder hung in his room until he died.  It’s mine now.


— TCDavis


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    • Odalis on April 29, 2013 at 10:42 pm
    • Reply

    I can’t believe how much you were able to convey about your father in so few words. So often we interact with people on a superficial level for years, and never learn anything of significance about them.

    • Barbra Ferrell on April 29, 2013 at 11:23 pm
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    I think I would appreciate that post even as a friend or stranger but it is so much more meaningful for me to hear that story of my grandfather and uncle. It is so often family members that I love the most but maybe know the least, accepting them unconditionally and then never asking the questions I pose to other friends. Thank you for another chance to learn about you and about Granddad. I certainly never knew the man who basked in rooftop peace.


  1. Love your post. I feel as though I know your father…and the poignant way in which you describe him says so much about your relationship with him, even now when he is not with you physically. He would be pleased, I’m sure, to be remembered by you in this way.


    • Joseph on April 29, 2013 at 11:57 pm
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    Tom, what a beautiful piece, you painted your memories so vividly for us to see. – joseph

    • Barry Zalph on April 30, 2013 at 2:01 am
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    Tom, you show so beautifully that self-discovery and developing intimacy with one’s parents need not stop in our 20s! As in a fine Japanese painting, you recreate a scene vividly in few strokes.

    • Rachel Sykes-Marut on April 30, 2013 at 12:48 pm
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    I read this with tears in my eyes. Your words are so powerful. I can feel your love and admiration for a great man. Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories.

    • Jimob on April 30, 2013 at 2:57 pm
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    Nicely done Rev.
    Heartwarming to say the least.

    • Linda Hall on April 30, 2013 at 4:33 pm
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    Tom — what a beautiful, touching piece. Your father was fortunate to have you in his life. Thanks for sharing your gift for writing, love, and remembrance.

  2. This is so lovely, Tom – thanks so much for sharing it.

    • Jerry on May 1, 2013 at 1:26 am
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    I thought I knew your father. Now I know I did not. Thank you for filling in some critical pieces.

    • Norris Cramer on May 1, 2013 at 3:06 pm
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    Tom, I find your piece moving and also familiar as my Dad recuperates from open heart surgery and struggles with leukemia. May I be blessed with the insight of my Dad’s soul as you were………..thank you..

    • Suzy on May 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm
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    Thank you so, so much Tom. Joan read this out loud in our group today and it brought tears to my eyes.

    • Lyle Dykstra on May 2, 2013 at 12:15 am
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    Tom, your writing is a beautiful gift. In a few words I got a real feel for your Dad. I think your Dad nurtured you well. Thank you for sharing with us. Lyle

    • Emily Moore on May 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm
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    Joan – I learned from my childhood that writing was healing. During the short time that we crossed paths over 12 years ago you reminded me of the value of writing and journaling. I’ve thought of you over the years as I have enjoyed journaling for and about my children, as well as for and about myself. Thank you for sharing this post by my uncle Tom!

    Uncle Tom – Your gift with words continues to offer comfort in times of trouble, and now growth in times of peace. Knowing a little more about him teaches me a little more about myself. Thank you for sharing.

    • tottie on May 2, 2013 at 11:13 pm
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    That was abolutely beautifully written. It spoke to me. I felt for your father as I also wanted to be anywhere but home when I was growing up but rarely had a place since we moved so much.

  3. Dear Aunt Tottie,
    Thanks for letting me know that the piece related deeply to your life. I’ve discovered that when we share something very personal, it touches others who have had similar experiences; or maybe not similar, but something in the writing connects in a way that one couldn’t have imagined. I found this out, of course, when I was preaching, but I continue to be amazed by it, now that I’ve taken up a pen.

    • Bill Innes on May 4, 2013 at 11:36 am
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    Thank you for sharing that beautiful piece. It’s sad how much pain people keep locked away, and how it dominates (and often poisons) their lives and relationships. Moving from the darkness to the light takes courage.

    • Carolyn Murdic on August 14, 2014 at 10:49 pm
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    Tom, as usual, I am awed by your writing. You beautifully captured the essence in word and visually. Bravo for writing the story, sharing the perfect , poem, lyrics and beautiful photograph. Thank you.

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