• 61°

Zuni man mourns father through poems

By Stephen H. Cowles

The Tidewater News

A person can be intellectually aware that a family member such as an elderly parent is nearing the end of their time. But that awareness doesn’t necessarily insulate or lessen the sorrow once the beloved has died.

How then to cope and carry on, especially when the grief can be so strong?

Rex Alphin, who farms in Zuni, found an outlet through self-publishing his first book of poetry, “Lamentations of a Son.” This was inspired by the death of his own father, Robert “Bob” Alphin, who died on Jan. 9, 2017, at 89 years old.

“His death created such a void,” said Alphin. “Everybody goes through it. I was at such a tremendous loss, especially having farmed with him for over 40 years through droughts, hurricanes, planting and learning how to work hard … what it took to hold onto a farm for a lifetime. They were great lessons.”

He continued, “We had so many great years together, and you want one more.”

A few weeks after his father’s passing, Alphin was “trying to make sense of it all.” Through a friend’s encouragement, he began writing, and that became “a great outlet.”

By publishing the poems, all written after his father’s death, Alphin is hopeful that they will “speak to other people out there who have experienced such a loss.”

The book is dedicated “For those who have lost … .”

“I like to write, but it’s difficult to put words to something you can’t grasp. Words fall so short [on such occasions,] but it’s all I had,” he said.

The former member of the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors had for many years contributed his columns and letters to the Suffolk News-Herald and other local publications. He found poems to be a different style of writing.

Poetry, Alphin said, is “succinct. It has a very short manner. Very sharp. Poems get right to the point quickly. They mimic death in a way.”

Asked for more about his father, Alphin recalled his sense of humor and how he found humor in everyday occurrences.

“He taught us three kids [siblings Ruffin Alphin, of Suffolk, and Trena Hill, of Driver] you can’t take life too seriously,” Alphin said. “He always had a good story, and a great memory for punch lines. He taught us to laugh as an integral part of living.”

A book signing is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 8 at Windsor Hardware. Copies of the book are available by contacting him at rexalphin.com or Amazon.com.