Saturday, October 27, 2012

Yeah, Phid died.  But I was doing just fine.  Really.  John's sister had arrived, and we were talking about all the stuff that needed talking about:  Where's the will?   How to tell Bill?  Whom to call?  When to have the wake?  All was well.

Until it was time to set the table.

John's in the
living room, with the lights on, strumming
Here Comes the Sun
into the stale air
pushing out the darkness with
"Little Darlin', it seems like years since it's been here..."

everything's so alive
and yellow and light and empty

i enter the dining room with
five white plates
because there are five of us

but suddenly I don't know
where we're all going to sit
because she sat there
and there later, after the wheelchair
and there's no place for us
for all of us
because there's five of us, and only five chairs,
and if i place a plate for all of us
that means there's no place
for her

and i sink to my knees
holding the white plates that i can't

she took up so much space, for so long, and now she's gone,
and i don't know how to fill her place
at the table

Thursday, September 20, 2012

bread and wine

My mother-in-law is dying. I know I've said that before. But this time, it's for real.

Here's what it's like, right now...

For twenty minutes every day, you stab little watermelon chunks with a fork, swirl them in the juice at the bottom of the bowl, and wait for her to open her mouth, the sign that she is ready for the next piece. The rest of your day is go, go, go, but during this time, you stop. You are present. You stare at the lines in her face, the colors of the blankets, the shape of her body under the covers. You try to memorize it all: every color, every curve, every sound.

How ignorant I was then! How could I possibly have thought that artichokes and strawberries somehow constituted some sort of "Last Supper"?! People who are dying don't eat artichokes and strawberries! People who are dying eat...watermelon.

 People who are dying say things like, "a loaf of bread and a jug of wine", and expect you to know what they're talking about. Last Supper, indeed! The only thing your small mind can conjure up is Jesus, until she gives you another clue. You have to ask for it three times, until you finally make out her whisper: "The Rubaiyat...... Omar Khayyam".

And then you mention that you wished you had your computer, because you'd look it up. The dying person knows what he/she wants, and tells you to look it up on your phone. She may be 86 years old, but she knows that you can find anything you want on a phone!

 Thank goodness the caregiver has a smart phone, even if you don't.

 And so you begin to read (I highly suggest you read this aloud.  Just do it.  Please):

 Wake! For the Sun, who scatter'd into flight 
 The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
 Drives Night along with them from Heav'n, and strikes
The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light. 

You scroll down to see that there are "CI" verses. So you go to the middle, somewhere at random, and read aloud some more, filling the room with rhythm and rhyme:

 And we, that now make merry in the Room 
 They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom 
 Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth 
 Descend--ourselves to make a Couch--for whom? 

 Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, 
 Before we too into the Dust descend; 
 Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie 
 Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and--sans End! 

You succeed in barely not choking up and crying. And then, in the scrolling, you see it. And of course you read it. Aloud.

 A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, 
 A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou 
 Beside me singing in the Wilderness-- Oh, 
Wilderness were Paradise enow! 

We're getting close, friends. This person is gone.