Meet our speaker. And his old man. According to our speaker, his pops gets up super early every Sunday morning to light fires in the fireplaces to warm up their home. Now we here at Shmoop are not morning people, so this is impressive in and of itself. But it's even more impressive when you learn that his dad is totally tuckered out from an intense work week.
Bummer alert: no one, including the speaker, thanks his father for doing this. The speaker then tells us that he’d get out of bed once the house was warm and when his father called for him. He was a little bit afraid of his father, and the house was filled with “chronic angers,” rather than, say, sunshine and rainbows and lollipops.
Then, once the speaker had hauled himself out of bed, he'd talk to his dad, but not with any kind of enthusiasm or affection. And this despite the fact that his dad had lit all the fires in his house, and even polished his kid's shoes.
Why'd he do that? Probably because he didn't know a ton about love back then. We guess the speaker's grown up now. The speaker implies in the poem’s final lines that he didn’t understand that his father’s behavior (lighting the fires, shining the shoes) was an expression of fatherly love. But now he does.