Archive for September 2010

Judge Holden or Universal Brotherhood   Leave a comment

A few years ago in a literature class, our assignment was to read the novel, “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy. Many people know McCarthy from his novel, “All the Pretty Horses” which was also made into a movie of the same name. Other more recent books made into movies are “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men.” McCarthy’s style of writing is much different in Blood Meridian than in his last two books. The assignment to read “Blood Meridian” was a most difficult one for me, because this book is packed with gruesome violence, but it is also filled with the most incredible writing and use of language imaginable. Most people who start this book give it up and some pick it up again and then again before they manage to read it to the end. At least one person in the class refused to continue. There is not a lot of plot to entice the reader on and the information about the characters, where they come from, what they think, is slim to non-existent, but their actions tell you all you need to know, and one of the most memorable characters in the book, and in all of literature is  “Judge Holden.” More is unveiled about this character than any of the others as the book progresses.

From a New York Times article by Richard Woodward: “Blood Meridian” has distinct echoes of “Moby-Dick,” McCarthy’s favorite book. A mad hairless giant named Judge Holden makes florid speeches not unlike Captain Ahab’s. Based on historical events in the Southwest in 1849-50 (McCarthy learned Spanish to research it), the book follows the life of a mythic character called “the kid” as he rides around with John Glanton, who was the leader of a ferocious gang of scalp hunters. The collision between the inflated prose of the 19th-century novel and nasty reality gives “Blood Meridian” its strange, hellish character. It may be the bloodiest book since “The Iliad.” More profoundly, the book explores the nature of evil and the allure of violence. Page after page, it presents the regular, and often senseless, slaughter that went on among white, Hispanic and Indian groups. There are no heroes in this vision of the American frontier.

The critic Harold Bloom, among others, has declared it one of the greatest novels of the Twentieth Century, and perhaps the greatest by a living American writer.

I remember telling my teacher when reading this book, I felt sucked down into some dark abyss, drowning in violence. And my professor’s response was,” He is a good writer, isn’t he?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” I said.

I abhor violence, war, physical abuse, I carry spiders outside if possible, and try never to step on bugs or kill anything.  The quote by Albert Schweitzer “We are life which wills to live in the midst of life which wills to live” helped me decide that everyone and everything around me is doing their best to survive, and I should be considerate of that, and if I could be healthy without eating meat why should animals die for my sustenance, and so I became a vegetarian 12 years ago. But I love this book. It made me think, and it refused to leave my mind for weeks after I finished it, always a good sign of great art whether it’s a film, book, or art piece.  I wanted to talk to others about it, not because of the violence but because of the questions it forced upon me.  The character called Judge Holden frightens and entices the reader. He is a complex evil giant of a man who seems to know about everything. The Judge is childlike, a fiddler and a good dancer. He draws the plants and animals he sees in a mysterious notebook, but then destroys his models “to erase them from the memory of men.” The Judge seems to be the embodiment of all that is evil. Is he the devil? Is he manifest destiny itself?”

“Blood Meridian’s” concrete locale is the border between the United States and Mexico, but as the website of the society for Cormac McCarthy states, the story depicts the borderland between knowledge and power, between progress and dehumanization, between history and myth and, most importantly, between physical violence and the violence of language.

After reading the book, I found the following words from an interview in 1992 that Cormac McCarthy did with Robert Woodward.  “There’s no such thing as life without bloodshed,” McCarthy says philosophically. “I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous.” His words disturbed me. I wrote them down and carried them with me trying to understand his feelings, my feelings, what is true, what is possible or impossible for humanity? Can we evolve into more peaceful beings, or will we continue a downward spiral to barbaric living with continual wars that are accepted by citizens as a matter of course?  Is my life vacuous? Must I be on alert for evil lurking? Suffering is inevitable, is violence?                                                                                                                              “It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be….
War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.”
Blood Meridian
Judge Holden, Chapter 17, Page 248

But as often stated on the Monty Python show, “Now for something completely different.”

Steven pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His most recent book is The Blank Slate. On a TED lecture, Pinker stated the following:

“In the decade of Darfur and Iraq, and shortly after the century of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, the claim that violence has been diminishing may seem somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene. Yet recent studies that seek to quantify the historical ebb and flow of violence point to exactly that conclusion.

This doctrine, “the idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions—pops up frequently in the writing of public intellectuals like José Ortega y Gasset (“War is not an instinct but an invention”), Stephen Jay Gould (“Homo sapiens is not an evil or destructive species”), and Ashley Montagu (“Biological studies lend support to the ethic of universal brotherhood”),”  Pinker writes,  “Now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler.”

I will read McCarthy, but have faith in humanity’s goodness.

Peace be with you.

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Posted September 27, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays, Uncategorized

Last Nursing Home Days   Leave a comment

I arrived at the nursing home yesterday, September 27th,  around 11:30 am, and dad was awake and recognized me. I was shocked at his shrinking appearance after only a couple of days. His lunch tray came with his pureed food. The aide fed dad the mashed potatoes and some kind of chicken, and dad ate both of these rounded mounds on the plate. The male aide is young, a big guy who talks encouragingly to dad, pats him on his back, offers a drink frequently. The aide is called away, so I continue feeding dad. Before the aide left, I asked what one dish is that looks like malt-o-meal. “That’s his bread” I’m told. Yuk! I know I can’t give Dad a spoonful of that. He finished the last bite of his chicken stuff, and asked if the next pile on his plate is a cookie. The shape does look like a puffy sugar cookie, but it’s green and must be peas, I’m guessing. It looks almost as bad as the mushy bread in a bowl. The aide must not have wanted to feed him those two things either, the green pile and the mushy bread, because he had not attempted to try them on Dad. Dad eats better and is more alert than he’s been all day. His dessert is chocolate banana cream pie but pureed looks like chocolate pudding, which is the most attractive thing on his tray. I give dad a bite and he says, “Not bad.” It’s one of the few words that I’ve been able to understand when he talks. I’m not sure if it is because he is so weak that he can barely speak or make it audible. Last week, he could speak just fine, and get himself out of bed at night. His bed was lowered to the floor and a mat was beside it, but he could get himself onto the mat, which set his alarm off, but he could do it. This week there is no way he would have the strength to do that. After dad ate, he slept, so I went home feeling sad, wanting some comfort, so I drove to the Dairy Queen and had an ice cream cone.

“You scream, and I’ll scream, we’ll all scream for ice cream.” I remember him saying that when I was little, and knowing that we would get some ice cream.

My sister called after speaking with the hospice nurse. Dad has quit swallowing. Hospice will see him again tomorrow.

I bought paint to touch up the metal on the awnings outside. I moved the little radio/CD player closer to where I was working. I had “a moment” thinking about him and mom and tears dripped onto the cement where I squatted opening the can of white paint. I slid the button from radio to CD. I knew there was a disk in the player but had forgotten which one. It was Nora Jones, the CD we always played for mom in the hospital when we left her room each night. She spent six weeks on the acute rehab floor. The first few times I heard Nora Jones voice, it were hard for me, but today when the music started, and I began to paint, I felt differently. The day was warm with no breeze, Nora Jones sweet voice floated across the yard to me, and I felt a strong sense of gratitude for my imperfect parents. I am here, sensing and feeling this day, because of them. They did their best or their near best, and here I am, there is no place in this moment for regret or blame, just gratitude for both of them, an unlikely pairing of personalities who had five imperfect children. Children who care for each other and know other good things that our parents showed us in this imperfect world.

I drove to Bayard later in the afternoon, and was surprised to see Dad awake. I greeted him and he seemed to know me. I asked him if he knew it was me, and he nodded. His eyes have a vacant look, but yet they seem to look and register my face every so often. I talked a little more, but wasn’t sure if he knew what I was saying or not. Becky and I spoke earlier, and I said that maybe we needed to tell him it was okay to go, so I did. “Dad, it’s okay to go. You don’t have to be afraid. You’ll see mom and Fred.” “Can you hear me?” He nodded yes, but I’m not sure he understood what I was saying or not. We tried more times to communicate, but when he tried to say something, I could not understand him. I thought he said, “I need to go.”

“You mean, die?”

“No.”

A young aide came in to give Dad a message from his granddaughter, Mariah.

“Joe, Mariah called to tell you she couldn’t come today, but that she loves you.”

“Thank you.” I said.

I don’t know if he understood, so I repeated that Mariah had called.

“You had lots of grand kids running around your house. Do you remember?”

He looked at me.

“Pat, Andrea, Josh, Nick, Beth, Katie, Mariah,  Andy, Gunnar, Will, Austin, Dylan, Jake and Addison.”

I saw recognition in his face as I said the names of his grand kids.

“Mom cooked for a lot of people. Do you remember her homemade bread?”

It seemed to me he said yes, but I’m not sure if I just hear what I want.

He fell asleep, and I went home to wait for tomorrow.

Posted September 27, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Have a Chair, Uncategorized

Last nursing home days?   6 comments

Last Sunday, September 18th, my sister pushed my dad in his wheelchair through the doors of the nursing home and out into the sunshine. Maybe the last sunshine he will ever feel on his face. They wheeled around the grounds, but he could barely keep his eyes open and he told her the sun was making him sleepy, so they returned to his room where he could rest. She asked if anything sounded tasty like maybe a chocolate malt. My dad loved his ice cream, and even when we had little money, he would send me several times a week to the A&W Drive-in near our home in Chadron to get him and me a malt. I’m the middle child, with two older and two younger siblings. My next older sibling, Becky, the one who offered Dad a malt, is four years older, and the brother after me is eight years younger. The times when I was fetching malts for dad, I remember it often being just the two of us at home. He would always wait until it was nearly dark to send me the few blocks to pick up the drinks, and the route took me by a very tall hedge that covered a half a block. I never told dad, but it frightened me to walk by that hedge at night, and if I ran it was worse, because running increased the feeling that someone was after me or might grab me from inside or behind the hedge, so I walked quickly but apprehensively.  At the time, I had a large black Labrador named T-Bone, who also loved ice cream. I brought dad’s malt in one night after a particularly harrowing walk by the hedges, and of course, as I walked back with the drinks, I had to take it even slower, so not to spill. This was before the time of plastic lids. I brought dad’s malt in and he set it on the table, and stepped out of the room for second. T-Bone placed a couple of big front paws on a chair, and stood up for easy access to dad’s malt. We found out that a big dog’s tongue can take in about half a malt in two big licks. T-Bone probably knew he had better make quick work of it.  I heard dad yell, “You son of a bitching dog.”  I don’t remember that I had to pick up another malt that night, but I do remember biting my lip, so dad wouldn’t notice me trying not to laugh.

Becky brought dad a malt in last Sunday and he enjoyed a bit of it. On Tuesday, she saw him again and he had a fever and was chilled and not feeling well. On Wednesday I phoned the nursing home around noon, and he was much worse. They could not reduce the fever and I was told that he was septic. I phoned my sister and one brother who phoned the other two brothers, and I drove to see him. Dad was in a recliner with a cool cloth covering his forehead. I spoke to him, but wasn’t sure he was aware it was me. The fever caused him to be delirious and he gazed at the ceiling and reached for things that weren’t there. The staff tried to push fluids and he resisted calling the Gatorade, poison. Finally, his fever broke and his skin was sweaty. The staff came in, gave him a sponge bath and a clean shirt and got him in bed. My sister arrived and we sat with him. The skin on his arms and legs was mottled, and he did not respond coherently to us. I think he was dying, so did my sister. His fever continued to stay down, and the nurse told us he was not actively dying.  “Actively dying” seems a sort of oxymoron, but people also inactively live, so maybe it all makes sense. The hospice nurse would meet with us the next day.  I discovered that actively dying people can become inactively living people again.

The hospice nurse provided us with information. My brother Dan seemed unsure of the idea, but when questioned he said that he just didn’t see how we got to this point so quickly when a doctor had not seen dad. I explained to him that I had told the nursing home yesterday that we wanted no aggressive measures taken, which is why dad was not taken to the emergency room or to a doctor when his fever was up all day and he was so ill. We were all on the same page about letting nature take its course and not prolonging a life that was ready to go.

My oldest sibling, Ted, was working, but the other four of us, along with Dan’s girlfriend, Sheila, sat together in the nursing home dining room and talked about various things such as my parent’s house, my uncle’s medals in a drawer and when we should clean out the house. Most of my mother’s clothes are still there. I can take care of them, now. Her smell is gone. It went so quickly from her things. I hoped that if I didn’t wash her nightgown, shirts and jackets that I brought home after she died, that I could inhale her scent for a long while but found out otherwise.  My youngest brother, Bill, promised that when he put me in a home, I would be adequately dressed and would receive a malt a day. I told my children a nice, big slathered-with-icing homemade cinnamon roll everyday in my old age would be great, too.

Posted September 24, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Have a Chair

Nearby is the country they call Life” Rainer Maria Rilke   3 comments

Eighty-one year old Buddhist Joanna Macy, philosopher,
environmentalist, a woman with a most amazing spirit and life tells
us not to run from our grief.  If the pictures of birds and animals
covered with oil from the gulf spill caused you sadness, Macy tells
us not to avoid these feelings or pave over them or be apathetic.
Do not run from your outrage at wrongs to humanity and the earth. 
She states that when we are with our grief and our pain, it turns
to reveal its other face and shows our love for the world, our
connectedness to all beings.
Joanna Macy’s words remind me of a scene from one of my favorite
movies, “Shadowlands” starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.
They portray the true story of writer C.S. Lewis played by Hopkins
with his newly married wife played by Winger who is dying of cancer.
She asks him if it’s been worth it, meaning loving her, because she
knows the pain he will have when she dies. She tells him, “The pain
then (to come) is part of the happiness now. That’s the deal.”
Later when C.S. Lewis talks with one of his college students about
why we love if losing hurts so much, Lewis who lost his mother as a
child and his wife as an adult, responds, “I have no answers anymore,
only the life I have lived. Twice in that life...  I've been given
the choice: As a boy... and as a man. The boy chose safety. The man
chooses suffering.The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's
the deal.” Whether we are talking about losing a beloved partner or
the earth, which should be considered our beloved partner, we need
to be present in their suffering, and that is a difficult task, but
not so hard when we gaze at a tree and realize the tree is our lungs
and without the health of those trees, we stop breathing. Without
the health of the animals, insects, birds and sea creatures, our
life is lost. We have nothing to lose by caring for our earth and
everything to gain. We are as guilty for the oil spill as BP. SUVs
line our streets, waste of all kinds fill our dumps, water covers
our lawns when we could be choosing other landscapes, we gauge
success by bank accounts and 80% of people are unhappy in the
workplace.
If we choose to love, it means wanting to be with a person or place
no matter the shape they are in. Macy states that feeling that one
must always be hopeful can wear a person out, but if we just show
up, and be present, do not pull down the blinds, the possibilities
exist that the world will heal. She believes there is a new paradigm
occurring that is known as “The Great Turning.” The Great Turning
is a concept she helped coin and define. Macy calls The Great
Turning “the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the
industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.” She
says it is a time of transition from a bankrupt political society,
which measures success by growth and profit and is being replaced
by moral strength, courage and creativity. The generations alive
today may not see a drastic change in their lives or environment
but the choices we make for profit today will effect the beings in
the next hundreds and thousands of years and determine whether
they will be born of sound mind and body.Joanna Macy led a most
interesting life from her protestant upbringing, work with the CIA
when she was in her early twenties, life in Germany, joining the
Peace Corp and working with Tibetans and learning how much they
loved life despite all the obstacles they faced. Gratitude, one of
the touchstones of all religions is a most important personal guide
for Joanna Macy. She writes:“Come from Gratitude. To be alive in
this beautiful, self-organizing universe--to participate in the
dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it,
organs that draw nourishment from it--is a wonder beyond words.
Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all
religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art.
Furthermore, it is a privilege to be alive in this time when we can
choose to take part in the self-healing of our world.”
Macy is also well-known for her translations of the work of
German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Below is one of the poems:

Go to the Limits of Your Longing
by Rainer Maria Rilke; translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night. 

These are the words we dimly hear: 

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing. 

Embody me. 

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in. 

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness. 

Give me your hand.

Posted September 20, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays

Who Is this Man?   Leave a comment

“It takes men to end rape.”         Eve Ensler

who is this man?

where does his mind go when he pushes his engorged self

into a tiny vagina and catches the drips of blood on his dick

and says nothing as she screams

tiny trophies held on a shelf in his mind?    on his heart?

V      I   O      L     E      N     T

INTERRUPTION

in a short life

with too few memories of good

too few discussions of falls through the ice, being lost in the woods,

and all those other cautions to learn

lost expectations that this dance of life will be fun

taken too the trust of a male

petals torn from a flower,

“He loves me not”     “not me’

“not me”

robberies from the Congo,  Haiti,

from the house next door

I pull thick socks on my feet, pour milk in my coffee

notice the dying plum tree, the broken mailbox flag

but the cries of these girls, of their mothers,

do I hear them?

Mary Strong Jackson

September 15, 2010

Systematic mass rape has been used in connection with most wars and other armed conflicts.

Since 2005, more than 32,000 cases of rape and sexual violence have been registered in Congo’s South Kivu alone.

Somewhere in America, a woman is raped every 2 minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Rectovaginal fistula refers to damage between the rectum and vagina. Often if the rectum sustains a fistula, the bladder will also have been damaged and a woman will leak both urine and feces.

The vaginal canal can be ruptured by violent rape. In 2003, thousands of women in eastern Congo presented themselves for treatment of traumatic fistula caused by systematic, violent gang rape that occurred during the country’s five years of war. So many cases have been reported that the destruction of the vagina is considered a war injury and recorded by doctors as a crime of combat.

One of the most startling aspects of sex crimes is how many go unreported.

Nursing Home Days   Leave a comment

Driving home from my 58-year-old cousin’s funeral with my whole being full of emotions and with a plan to stop and see dad at the nursing home, I found myself deep sighing and with a tear here and there along this mile or that. This is my second funeral in two months, and I see my dad’s coming and my aunt’s who is the mother of the cousin who had just died. My cousin’s mother fell a few weeks ago and the hip surgery took its toll. Her dementia increased and she does not know her daughter died, a blessing for her. Her funeral will not be far off either, and then I started worrying about a couple other relatives, but told myself to “stop.” Everyone dies and if the person who dies is loved by someone then the death will hurt that survivor.  It can be no other way, and it’s hard. The minister’s promise of my cousin walking on the gold paved walkways of heaven or some such talk fell short in comforting me. What a pleasant childish view of an afterlife, but comfort is comfort.

I arrived at the nursing home and walked towards dad’s room, or his cabin as he called it last time, and found him sitting in the hall outside the room. His shirt was unbuttoned. He was awake and I greeted him. He seemed happy to see me for a minute, but then asked me to take him to his pick up.

“It’s not here, dad.”

“Where is it? It’s at Becky’s house.”

“Yes, I think that’s where it is.”

“I need to get my pickup, so I can get to work.”

“You’re retired. You don’t have to work so hard, now.”

“I would be better off at home.”

“You are getting stronger with the therapy and that’s good. If you were home, there would not be anyone there to help you to the bathroom.”

“I walked to the bathroom last night by myself. I was shaky but I made it. So maybe another month or two here.” He could not make it to the bathroom by himself, but has tried several times. His bed is lowered close to the floor and a mat is on the floor, and he gets himself to the mat before the staff can reach him when the alarm sounds.

“Well, that’s good. you are getting stronger.”

“You guys must think I’m stupid.”

“I don’t think you are stupid at all.”

“I need to work.”

“Now’s the time for you to take it easy. That’s what you can do when you’re retired.”

“Yes, but that was the past, and this is now and I need to work. I have to take that puppy to Becky, too. It ran off.”

“Becky has the puppy. Remember, she brought it in the other day to see you.”

He smiled and said, “Yes, it licked me.”

“You always brought a dog home to us if we didn’t have one. That must be why I love dogs so much. Do you remember that?””

“Yes. I remember.”

“Do you remember when you brought the baby rabbit home in your lunchbox. And said, ‘Guess what’s in it”

‘Yes , but that rabbit. Something happened to it.”

“You and Becky and I took the rabbit across the creek near our house in Belle Fouche and let it go.”

“Shall I push you around for a while?”

“Yes, go straight ahead.” I don’t think Becky should marry that guy. She hasn’t known him very long.”

It seemed too long a story to go through the years she’s been married etc. so I said”You don’t?”

“I suppose it’s none of my business.”

“Yes, it is your business.”

We traveled the same small trip we’ve taken before down a few hallways to locked doors. One faces the cemetery.  I checked out the lunch menu because Dad told me that they were feeding him pig and he didn’t want it and they kept coaxing him to eat and he wasn’t happy about that. The menu said fried chicken, but it would be pork roast for dinner that evening. He seems to always name the animal not the dish. And according to him, it’s been donkey, mule, rabbits, pig and cow.

We returned to his room and he was very sleepy, so I asked the staff to help him onto the bed. A large male staff person and a woman came to the room, and talked very nicely to him and encouraged him to stand with help and take the three side steps towards the bed, and then with lots of help, he laid down and looked very tired, vulnerable and old. I told him I would see him soon. And then cried my way to the car. Like the title of Leonard Cohen’s book “Beautiful Losers.” We are all beautiful losers in one way or another.  I mean that in a most sincere, sad, glorious, amazing way in regard to life and the people who live and the people who die.

Posted September 17, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Have a Chair

Whoosh! I’m Dead   Leave a comment

McCaulay Culkin from the popular movie “Home Alone” turned 30 years old a few weeks ago. You may remember him as the little boy who slapped aftershave on his cheeks and yelled out from the sting of it. If that is not enough to make you feel the passage of time, try putting a parent in the nursing home.

It is my father’s third week in the nursing home, and he is receiving excellent care. I visited him today. My plan for this column was an article about the visual artist Marcel Duchamp, but my visit with my father refused to leave my mind and Mr. Duchamp can wait.

My own mortality has been pressed to the forefront as never before with one parent deceased and the other in a nursing home. After the death of my mother and my pain at her absence, I reminded myself of all the minutes, so many minutes that I’d had with her, so many minutes she also experienced with others and alone in the solitude she treasured. Hers was a full life filled with glorious, sad, important, difficult and beautiful minutes. It helped me to think of her time this way, and made her life seem much longer when I considered all those minutes – her life as a young girl, young wife and mother – and how many times I’d watched her laugh at Dean Martin on his weekly show, or make her famous sloppy joes for a crowd of people. The many garage sales we rose early to catch, and the number of cookies, homemade bread and cinnamon rolls that melted in my mouth that were baked by her capable hands. The number of books she read, the paintings she completed, the afghan blankets she crocheted, and the seemingly endless supply of babies she rocked through the years. And this was all her in spare time when she was not at her 40 hour a week job. The memory of my mother helps me to remember to pay attention to all my many minutes, because there are a lot of them and I need to be fully present in each and every one.  My poem, which was on the small printed funeral information that is handed to each attendee, describes my mother.

It Doesn’t Have To Be a Goodbye Poem

Because every time

my sister, brothers and I see a dark-haired woman

with straight black eyelashes tug the cap over a child’s ears

on a cold day

we will remember her

braiding hair

kneading bread

patting baby cheeks

It doesn’t have to be a goodbye poem

because every time

we see an open book

we’ll remember her reading stories

of prairie dogs in green checked jackets and matching tams

or reading to herself

word after word      book after book

and we will remember those eyes

guiding her artist’s brush

catching light    catching shadow

marking a canvas       marking a day

It doesn’t have to be a goodbye poem

because we’ll remember

that courage and conviction come in the size of  our mother’s hands

the shape of our mother’s back

humility in the shadow of her down-turned face

It doesn’t have to be a goodbye poem

because every time

we offer a walking person a ride on a cold day

every time we return change to a mistaken clerk

every time we question our motives

yearn to do right

this won’t be a goodbye poem

Our mother’s love

deep and still and wild and real

cannot leave her children

or their children

or their children…

Today, I entered the nursing home feeling good that my dad is doing better than when he was admitted three weeks ago, and my conversation the day before with my sister reiterated that fact, so I went in with a positive feeling, but then, there he was an old man asleep in a recliner with other old people in the room. Yes, a normal nursing home sitting room, but this was my physically strong dad, my old dad who wasn’t old like this just a month ago. I woke him and it took him a minute to get his bearings. He looked pale. I asked him a few questions and he told me that there are good things and bad things.

“What’s a good thing, dad?”

“Well, you know the bib things that snap when we eat in the dining room. I cannot ever get the snaps to work, but a lady at my table helps me.”

“That is a good thing.”

I ate dinner with him. He dines with two very nice ladies at every meal.  He has told me several times of another lady who wants to marry him.  My dad has been in a wheelchair the past three weeks. He said, “I wished I’d had this much attention when I could walk and then I would be enjoying myself.”

I waited while the staff helped my dad into his room. I looked at the VCR tapes with music called Golden Memories, and considered the music of elders who love hard rock or the soon to be nursing home residents who will want rap music, maybe nursing homes will be much louder, soon. Like other nursing homes, this one has a nice wooden and glass case that holds colorful little finches.  I watched the lovely little birds in their boxed home, captured, and darting from one wall to another in the short flying distance of their home. I reminded myself not to fear taking risks.

“I’m going home now, dad.”

“Don’t forget I’m here.”

“I won’t ever forget that you are here.”

“I thought you did last week.”

“I won’t forget, and I promise that I’ll see you soon.”

Posted September 11, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Have a Chair

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