Monday, September 5, 2011

Found this in my Drafts folder. A poem from a long night at the hospital this summer.

All day long the office has been harassing me to visit her.

I do not want to go.

I saw her yesterday,
her skin beyond jaundiced,
her eyes yellow like a Yield sign,
her face uncomprehending.
She could not carry on a conversation.

Her room was empty but for a few flowers
from a friend's garden, and the angel statue
she requested from a nurse.

This is not new territory,
not for me.

I do not want to visit her again.

She is too much like my father.

I sit in the chaplain's office,
stand at the windows,
stare into nothing.
I allow myself to shake.

I allow myself to be seventeen,
standing in the ER hallway
as my father was intubated.

I allow myself to be nineteen,
watching as my incapacitated father
struggles against his bonds,
his almost-useless hands tied
to keep him from tearing out the tube
that is keeping him alive.

I allow myself to be twenty-one,
singing in the Saint Olaf Choir,
watching my mother's face break as she explains
that she will not be able to attend the Christmas concert,
that someone will have to stay 
with my cancer-struck father.

I allow myself to be angry,
at him, at her, at everything.

I have been told that explaining all this
will do nothing to help me survive it.
Remembering what happened,
understanding what happened,
and releasing what happened
are three very, very different things.

I wonder if I ever can release
all that is built up inside me,
if the fortress 'round my heart
can ever fall completely.

Jesus, you have brought me this far.
Are you with me now?

I take some papers and go.

The room is full today.
Mother, brother, sisters, daughters,
grandchild, niece, nephew.
My heart swells and hurts 
for those gathered,
and for the woman who they surround
as she barely wakes to see 
the grandchildren she's never met before.

Sisters shift to make room for daughters,
brothers and in-laws waver at the back of the room.
Each breaks from their watch
and tells me a piece of the story:
alcoholism,
treatment,
relapse,
divorce,
rejection,
isolation.

A broken story, a broken family.
Now they are trying to make sense of the pieces,
re-constructing ten shattered years.

The pain of it stings.
I am outside it and yet within it.
It does not touch my past
but my heart,
and I love them without reservation.

I bring them water and coffee, 
take a niece to the cafeteria,
take the estranged son for a soda.

He tells me they called 911 on their mother ten years ago
and were taken from the home
and never looked back.

When we return 
the family is murmuring:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee...

I pray silently with them.

Is it me that is praying,
or someone else that moves my lips?

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. Thank you for posting. I always enjoy what you write. :)

    ReplyDelete