I Stand In The Doorway

Surrounded by the animated chatter of youth,
a mother piles food on plates, busies herself
with addressing individual needs, smiles warmly.

In another room, a woman lies lifeless, grieving
a life now passed, children gone, an absentee mate;
she is alone, feels the burden of her inadequacy.

I stand in the doorway between the two,
longing to join the reverie in one room,
unable to tear myself away from the other.

Would you like something to eat? I offer,
wanting to draw her her out of isolation,
but she turns away, claims to be dieting.

That’s not the right way to go about it
her eyes are cold, dying, my words a lecture,
how can she ignore the succulent aromas?

Outside, the men gather, raising glasses
and voices, masculine camaraderie, content
to let the women do their thing – oblivious.

We could join the party, I offer, but she is
tired of parties, tired of small talk, tired of
it all. I am inclined to agree, have known futility.

I want to go back into the kitchen, forget
about her, but it’s too late; I’ve touched
her sorrow, cannot let go, am powerless.

Think I’ll go outside, air out my mind,
sit amongst the clueless, talk about
everything and nothing, deny responsibility.

I stand in the doorway between two women
one who finds purpose in service to others,
and one whose life has lost all meaning.

I stand in the doorway between the two,
and notice that the mother is no longer me,
and that woman in the bed has no future,

and suddenly realize that I have choices,
and that motherhood or empty-nester
are self-imposed definitions, irrelevant.

Whether to participate or not in life is my call
and not a reflection of how I feel about my body
or whether or not I am giving or doing enough.

I turn from that doorway and make a decision
to just walk away – the kitchen will always be
a place of vitality and the bedroom a refuge

and me, I will be outside enjoying a drink
and conversing about who knows what
and living, obligation-free, in the moment.

 

Absence

Slippers, perched at night stand,
twitching impatiently,
mark the absence of feet,
cannot appreciate the meaning
of unruffled bed covers.

Abandoned, a coffee mug
bemoans its curdling contents,
complains of thick brown lines
contaminating its porcelain shine,
has not noted absence of hands.

Chair, pushed back from desk,
in partial rotation, sits awkwardly,
commanding attention, disturbed
by its misalignment, has not thought
to ponder absence of body.

House, uncomfortable with silence
creaks unnaturally, loudly voicing
objections to the absence of footfalls,
automated machinery and incessant
rings, beeps, and chimes of technology.

I try to reassure them that the absence
is only temporary, that the man whose
presence so strikingly fills this space
will return,  hope they cannot read
the apprehension in my tremulous heart.

Disability’s Rant

It’s not that I’m not open
to new perspectives –
I am aware of daylight
beyond these walls –
conscious that mine is
not the only viewpoint.

It’s just that the inflexibility
of this existence is unrelenting,
and I have come to see opposing arguments
in the bleak morbidity of aging –
am having doubts about the willingness
of skilled, principled, professionals
whose rigorous platforms require
energetic, sheltered, regard.

I am lacking confidence
in my ability to articulate –
sanitizing personal inkling,
disinfecting institutional
impotency.

What lesson have I signed up for?
How is it I’ve found myself,
mired in sterility,
shrouded in grey,
an unwitting student
in my own life?

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She is Ready, God

Ushering the last of the condolences out,
she turns and slowly shuffles her way back
down the grayed barren, institutional halls –
a shock of white hair bent over metal legs.

She pauses at the doorway – hesitates, feels
weight descending – the finality of her loss –
recalling the years of companionship, how
they were the Ma and Pa for staff and alike.

Wondering who she is now, willing herself
to pass, once occupied, now stripped bed,
the abruptness of silence accosting frailty –
at 88 she’s survived three husbands. Alone.

Laboriously, disrobing, hangs her mourning
dress, unrolls stockings past swollen calves,
winces at the pain of bloated feet, stiffens –
wills past the stark emptiness once more.

Routine carries her through nightly rituals,
and numbed with weariness, she slumps –
a bed-for-one poor remedy for what ails –
she turns to the wall – shunning harshness.

Tomorrow, reassurances and guilt-ridden
faces will hover over the arrival of another,
erasing memories, eradicating familiarity –
Too soon! she cries to unheeding darkness.

Take me too, she pleas to her unseen God.
I’ve had enough! But like the dawn she’ll rise,
comply with changes, adapt to new tides –
find her compassion, forgo self-indulgence.

She is awe-inspiring, this mother of mine,
a tireless sentinel of peace, selfless crusader
for love – acceptance her chosen weapon –
having navigated unimaginable adversities.

The buoyancy of her steps, now subdued,
the flames that framed her face – symbiotic
with passion – now extinguished, age spots
disguising freckles – yet her smile remains.

Do not mourn my passing, she instructs,
know that I have lived fully.  I do, I respond,
wishing her an effortless transition, silently
commanding courage, offering up a prayer:

May the angels that receive her wear red shoes,
and may they whisk her away in the flourish of
a big band chorus, inviting her to join the dance –
sprinkling the essence of her beauty as they go.

May she behold – clarity of ecstatic revelation –
the light that she has spread in this lifetime,
witnessing the masterpiece of her existence,
understanding for eternity, that she is love.

 

 

On Growing Old

Comfort is where we’ve settled,
a well-appointed existence
with commodities on the side.

I dawdle with grandchildren
casting pink thread for slugs
ignoring the sludge in my veins

while he wrestles with fallen
leaves and closing the pool
and readying for the cold ahead.

Even now, there is no security
no locks to protect against invasion;
we live a permanent transience.

When complacency is threatened
we steel ourselves, steadying
against the pull of anxiousness

telling ourselves it’s all expected
we’ve known all along that life
is tenuous, control a fallacy.

Current upsets prove hollow
and we, precariously plodding,
hover once again at the edges.

Day 264 “Do Not Wait”

“What does this say Mommy?”  A two-year-old peers intently at the letters on a page.
“They’re words, Honey.  You’ll have to wait until you go to school to learn to read.”

“When will I have a boyfriend?”  A pre-teen wonders aloud.
“Not until you’re older,” she’s told.  “Wait a few years yet.”

“I can’t wait until I move out!”  A young woman bemoans.
“Living under my parents’ roof is a drag.”

“Will I ever get married and have children?”  The working woman asks.
“I don’t know if I can wait much longer.”

“Wait ’til your father gets home!” A mother tells her naughty son.
“When will my time come to get out of the house?”

“We’d like to travel,” a woman tells her friend,
“but we’re waiting until the kids leave home.”

“I think we’d better downsize,”  a wife tells her husband.
“I don’t think we can wait until retirement.”

“Do not wait!” a widow tells her children.
“Or it may be too late.”

Day 163 “Time Travel”

My granddaughter’s arms reach up above her head, her tiny hands each grasping one of my fingers.  She takes a wobbly step forward and then pauses to gaze in the glass counter beside us.

“Buh”, she says.

“Pretty”  I respond.  The cabinet showcases an array of colourful china cups.  “Keep going.”

She takes a few more precarious steps and stops again.  Thus we entertain ourselves while her mother and aunt shop for antiques.  My girls arranged this little getaway as a celebration of my fifty-fifth birthday.  Their brother would be joining us later for dinner.  The site of our gathering is a quaint, tourist attraction, noted for its shops and market. I am amused at some of the items on display: mementos of bygone days.  Hard for me to see the value in what was once common place, and overdone.  I mean, really, could blue mountain pottery be making a comeback?

Annie stumbles and I catch her up in my arms, wanting to move on from this aisle where everything is breakable.  That’s when I hear a familiar voice – one I haven’t heard for years.   I turn and catch site of a childhood friend.

“Beth!”

We embrace, and I call in my children to share in the encounter, proudly introducing the newest member of the family.  Beth and her husband join our little entourage and we wander out into the street in search of a place where we can catch up.

Our conversation comes so easily, as if there has been no separation of years.

Annie, close to needing feeding, cries out for her mother.  Beth and I simultaneously remember another time, when Annie’s mother was a baby, and would accept comfort from no one but me.  Beth’s husband makes a comment about my nature, a dig rooted in our teenage years when he teased me constantly.  I feel like I am fourteen again.

It is a surreal moment.   I have journeyed down many paths and crossed many bridges in my life, and in an instance I travel back forty years.

The meeting lingers with me for the rest of the day.  So many thoughts and emotions swirling inside.

I always loved Beth.  Her gentle nature and practical approach to life balanced my dramatic, frantic self.  There had been three of us in those teenage years, and despite our hopes and dreams, I was the only one to go on and have a family.  Beth and her husband chose not to have children, and our third friend never even married.  None of us could see back then how things would turn out.

I kept in touch with Beth in the early years of marriage and children, visiting every six months or so, but as my children grew and our lives became more complicated, I let the relationship go.  As I did with many of my close friendships, I created a distance that would protect me from rejection.  Today’s encounter reminded me that the people who know me best don’t care about my faults and failings.  I have worried for nothing.

A chance meeting today propelled me back in time, looking at my life from a new perspective.  Yes, there has been strife and regrets, but there has been so much more.  My family is a testament to that.

Time travel:  it’s good for the soul.