Archive for the ‘Aging Parents’ Category:

Wordless Times

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I lost my father in July. Then in August, my husband underwent a high-risk surgery. And then last week, I had surgery to determine whether I have cancer. (It looks like I do not.) Now everything that has always felt certain is entirely up for grabs. We have been so well-loved and supported by friends and family that I am not frantic or filled with dread. In fact, the time feels distilled. But I am wordless.

Usually, if I sit very still, the words for what I believe and experience will slide into place. There’s a “click” and I know that the sounds and meanings I’ve gathered say what I want to say. But now is a time of half-completed phrases, of writing one word and replacing it with three more, none of them right. It’s a time of short, stiff journal entries.

Instead of writing, I am reading: Madeleine L’Engle’s A WIND IN THE DOOR, which I hear from childhood in my Nana’s voice; the stream-of-consciousness poetry of Jorie Graham’s OVERLORD, which made no sense to me ten years ago and now makes me weep without explanation; Mary Doria Russell’s THE SPARROW, which my husband and I read aloud, and are still unpacking. Right now questions are more nourishing than answers.

I think that I am lying fallow—resting and waiting to plant new words: lush and vibrant ones that will emerge when it is time for harvest. Deep underground my hidden story waits. I’m going to trust it to come when it’s ready.

I’d love to see you on Wednesdays, at Bellevue College North Campus, starting September 23 for fall classes: Writing the Hidden Story, The Plot Thickens, and Cultivating Complex Characters. Sign up ASAP to insure a spot.

 

 

 

 

 

I Held Poems

Those most beautiful

I couldn’t read for a crowd.

When Sexton, blind with love,

Saw her daughter’s life stretch out,

When Thomas sang in his chains like the sea,

And refused to mourn–

 

Once I was in that cold embrace

They carried me along and up and down the peaks of waves.

I was in thrall.

They made me pull in my breath.

My throat ached its resistance.

 

And sometimes in my search for words

I felt my face draw shut

When an image opened,

Tender as a wound in my mouth.

 

Sometimes I wrote about my father,

Discovering, even after fifty years

The fresh mark of his inscrutable rage,

And reading it as loss,

Even though I knew he was across town

Nursing the clock on his wall.

“Don’t be an absentee,” he’d said the last time,

As if I must remember to vote

Before the polls closed.

 

Once I took him out

And brought a book of poems.

He complained

About the slowness of the coffee,

Barked at the waiter for not knowing

That Belgian waffles have strawberries,

Not peaches, goddamnit.

 

I read him a poem by Shelley,

One that wouldn’t bring me to shame,

And another by Hopkins that almost did.

 

“Now you,” I told him, sliding the book across.

He turned the pages and began,

Stopped,

Began again,

Then, in midsentence, closed the book.

“Can’t,” he said, and looked away,

My father,

Bearing my unshed tears.

 

©2014 Katherine Grace Bond

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question For My Father, Who Lives Alone

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Dad had a birthday today. “I never thought I’d live to 82,” he said.

“Dad,” I told him, “You’re 85.”

“Oh! So I am!” he said.

We took him for a hamburger. In a couple of weeks there’s some live music we’ll take him to. It’s a stretched-out birthday.

Visits are quiet. After two strokes, Dad doesn’t hold forth like he used to in conversation. He used to have a very long silence-filling “ahhhhhhh.” He used it if he was searching for a word, so that no one could interrupt until he found it. Now if I ask him the right questions, he’ll answer. Then I need to think of another question, and another. Some do not merit answers. Often, it just feels like me prattling. Sometimes I read or sing to him. I’m not sure whether he likes it or not. But when I take him back to the nursing home, kiss the top of his head and tell him I’ll be back next week, he always seems glad I’ve come.

I read this article on Dementia Friends, a movement started in England, and I’m still crying. The tears caught me by surprise.

“When we first started going to the BB we would have to stand and wait until a seat came open. That didn’t last for long. Over time, Dotty’s dementia friends started saving her a seat. As we approached the bar area they would start waving and smiling. Some would yell Dotty, and a few yelled Mom. Dotty’s list of direct dementia friends had grown to more than ten. They were waiting for her.”

I don’t know if Dad would even like having friends. I know he used to like it. Here’s a poem I wrote probably fifteen years ago. It came back to me as I was thinking about this. Despite the ending, it is not really about death, but about life.

Question For My Father, Who Lives Alone

 

What if you and I were walking one day

and you said,

“Can you smell the sap?”

And I did?

 

What if you said,

“The wind is brisk. It has a bite.”

And I said,

“Let’s go inside?”

 

What if you said,

“Sit at this table.

Here are my friends,

Here and here and here.”

And I touched each hand?

 

What if you said,

“I will die now.”

And I said,

“Yes.”

And you closed your eyes?

–from Considering Flight (2006, Brassweight Press)