I was nameless—I walked two steps behind him; my father, my husband.
At seventy-eight, Alice has given up. There is a glimmer of hope, faint and disappearing faster each day. I hold conversations with her. I latch onto to any spark I witness in the hope something will ignite. She doesn’t want to die, but she is S-L-O-W-L-Y. Her brain is held captive inside an inert body.
Thoughts attach to possibility; but she doesn’t know what it is, yet… Her will wanes, shrinks to wilt. I offer suggestions. Each time a wall sprouts; “My life was sheer hell then,” she balks at childhood memories.
Chores before school; watching the bus appear half a mile away. Finishing feeding, rushing indoors to wash; change into cleaner clothes. Eat a spoonful of porridge; make a lunch if she was lucky, dash to catch the bus before it turned in the farmyard and drove away.
School—work—home to work. A field of potatoes to pick up; after the horse and plough left them behind, exposed, sundried. Knock off dirt. Collect. Basket full to unload. Root crops to the root cellar. Schoolhomework by candle flicker.
Up before dawn, work clothes—out to do chores again. Watch for the bus; sprint into change before the bus enters the yard. Sheep, cows, chickens, milking, feeding, cleaning; repeat.
She flinches at memory of ranching with a husband that left her for a younger woman. Her albums are full of him, with her, and their children. Her heart blisters; her story is cast in linage and amnesia and she can’t escape, except by death.
I’m a liability she announces. In this long-term care facility, I watch people at different stages of dying. I’m waiting to die. I want something meaningful, a purpose to live for. Somehow, together we identify some straws to clutch-on to for the future.
Writing Practice: April is National Poetry Month [NaPoMo]. For several years I have challenged myself to write a poem a day during the month of April. This unique experience and practice has garnered both observation and attention to detail that perhaps would have otherwise slipped by.
Here is a suggestion offered by Juliane Okot Bitek a poet and writer.
“Listen. Listen to your body and to what it is saying. Listen to what’s going on, sounding, vibrating, floating about you. Listen to the misheard statements and how they rub up against each other and sometimes beg to be the beginning of something.”
Surprise yourself; write4health, write poetry and PLAY!