the box

slowly, reluctantly, i close the lid on the small, scarred, cedar box

it had been mine as a young girl, but somewhere along the way it became yours.. i suppose it’s mine again, these details are difficult to fathom, even on the best of days

i gently, almost reverently, open the box again, and take in its contents…

your worn wallet, holding the license that expired nearly a decade ago, a tiny copy of your diploma (a sign of how young you were when you carried it)

there is a picture of a girl you loved, and some paper money of a sort no longer printed, and a two dollar bill from Grandpa

in the box are a few notes, and pins that never were put on your school jacket, keys for cars no one owns and for motorcycles in pieces scattered like leaves

a letter from a college, an old empty shotgun shell, and a couple of arrowheads you found near the creekside

pay stubs from two jobs, and business cards from people you met…i wonder if you ever cross their minds

a couple of old collectible coins in holders that you saved like treasures through the years

there’s a plastic bag, inside are some locks of hair they shaved before your first brain surgery…they always hand this to the mom, i don’t know why

i found myself clinging to everything that was you, and so twelve years later, i still have that bag

i used to look through the box as though i might find you there

or maybe the secret to unlock your prison and set you free…but it’s not in there

i let the weight of the lid fall, and silently slip the box into its place on the shelf, until i next feel the need to visit

i’ve started a new box now, just as you have started over

it’s very different, just as you, we, are all changed…but life is about change, isn’t it?

©2018

fathers

we see you

night after night, without fail

after a long day’s work, you are here in his room

you, who can barely boil water, learned to mix medications, and to prepare his tube feedings

you patiently remove shoes and socks from uncooperative feet, ready the hospital bed, and gently lift your youngest son from his wheelchair

you speak…talking to him about your day, his…about the farm, and music for the long night, as you undress your boy. it’s no easy task…were  he to stand, he’d be taller than you, now

gently, with a father’s strength, you stretch stiff muscles and straighten resistant joints…all the while speaking and comforting. this is your evening ritual

you manage the feeding tube with one hand, once unfamiliar, and now just another part of your day. you tell him what you are doing every step… medications, a meal…water. water. simple, yet sustaining. the most basic of needs

pillows are fluffed and strategically placed, the quilt drawn up and tucked in

you kiss your lingeringson, and he relaxes into sleep. he will open his eyes at 4am, when he hears your bootsteps approach on the wood floor

he waits for your good bye at 5 am, and listens as you quietly close the back door and begin your day again

this is not what you planned or envisioned, it just…is

you are a father, caring for his son with love and with grace, dedication and determination

you are amazing

©2018

 

miracles

spring is a conundrum…

of new life, of beauty bursting from the grey winter deadwood…and memories of loss, pain, and a life that now would never be

not the same, anyway

not the one expected

that life is now the grieved for…

the possibilities and promise that lay crumpled, and destroyed…left behind somewhere in the wreckage as they pulled you, lingering son, free

my eyes wander to the flowerbeds under my bedroom windows, to the roses you planted there

they’ve had to fend for themselves these past twelve years

and they thrive…like you and me they continue on, a bit crooked, uneven…

what didn’t live has fallen away, leaving scars and bare spots…so much like our lives

but here and there, seemingly at random, vibrant life bursts forth

there is beauty, and wonder…

there are miracles

©2018

watching

cheerfully, gratefully, they post reports of His hand at work, saving them from harm

‘angels on their bumper’, or ‘God was watching over’, they write 

i glance at lingering son…

i know parents who have lost…and some nearly so…losing the one they knew, a stranger taking his place

was God not watching? did the angels not care that day?

perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between

could it be the importance is not the event itself, but how we respond? 

could it be that God is watching, loving, all of us…no matter the outcome, in our perception?

so we love without limit, serve with no end, grieve what was, and hope in what is to come

because He is watching, loving, helping us through…lighting our way and sustaining our trust

©2018

silence

i watch her from a distance, the old woman with her son

she was once taller, i think…time has drawn her closer to the earth, bringing her near to his side

she slowly, stiffly, maneuvers his wheelchair to have a better view of the pond

he doesn’t move, doesn’t speak…yet she, looking into his eyes, speaks and nods in a language only they seem to understand

i smile

i understand this woman…i am this woman

she sits…and relaxes a bit in the early spring chill. they both look out over the still waters, saying nothing

silence is our life

sometimes embraced, often overwhelmed and pushed away with music and children’s voices….one sided conversation is exhausting…we eventually return to the silence

she looks tired, worn…i wonder how long she has been caring for him, if she is alone…i think of my own unfinished plans

in this life, the smallest of kindnesses loom large. ..i gather myself and slowly walk toward them

i greet him first, smiling as she begins to explain, assure her i understand…she senses our sisterhood, and returns my smile

this business of caregiving, of growing old, of making impossible plans for inevitable outcomes…is unbearably hard

©2018

the stranger

‘why?’, the stranger inquires

interrupting my quiet reverie of memories

so much of my life is lived in the past now, and i catch myself speaking of lingering son as if he lives there, though he is perfectly present

‘why didn’t you pull the plug?’, the stranger presses

as if my son’s presence merits an explaination, a justification

as if there is some giant cosmic plug somewhere, a switch we can flip at our own choosing, when we think it’s best

(this stranger thinks she knows what is best, yet she did not conceive you, carry you, she did not birth you with joy and raise you into young adulthood

she doesn’t know you…or me

she wasn’t there, all those months

she has no idea about your life or mine now)

and yet this stranger fancies herself superior somehow, ‘i would have pulled the plug’ she says 

there is no plug, i tell her

it’s not that easy 

nothing is simple

i turn back to lingering son…we close our eyes, feeling the warm spring sun on our faces, lost in our inexpressible thoughts

 
©2018

the appointment

i hear his footsteps approach the exam room, my breath catches as thoughts race. my pulse quickens, i feel slightly sick…

memories flood past…playing with my children, grandchildren, babies chortling, making music with friends, farming…further back..giving birth, weddings, falling in love, childhood..

all accomplished with some level of pain, the last twenty years with proper treatment. happy and still productive, at sixty now i am in school, volunteering, advocating, caregiving, loving…or was. the change in my life has been head spinning these past few months.

he interrupts my thoughts as he enters. without making eye contact, he announces my medication will again be cut in half. i protest. i can’t spend more time in bed. i like to walk with my cane. to move. moving is important to be healthy.

i remind him i am a caregiver. my son cannot speak or move. who will care for him? for me? what have i done wrong? 

he won’t risk his license for a patients function, he says. nothing personal. he shows me a printout. says i’m over a limit that never existed before. that someone, somewhere, says now they know the risk of addiction. after over twenty years of none. liars.

he never took his hand off the door handle. bastard. he grins. buffoon. it will be a transition, he says. fool. death is a transition, i reply, that doesn’t make it a desirable outcome. he quickly disappears, leaving a nurse to pick up the pieces, and hand me my sentence. coward.

as i leave, a protesting patient is escorted out by security. an old man asks what ‘non-opioid treatment’ means for his cancer pain. my chest feels tight.

outside, the addicted continue to die in record numbers. their pain is not physical. the escape they seek is not with any medication i am prescribed, yet this is somehow laid at my feet. the world has lost its collective mind.

©2018