(I remembered a time I was nine years old in the hospital and I imagined, you know, writing a paragraph about it. But, when I was nine years old in the hospital, I didn't think in terms of paragraphs. So, to tell the story it would be this old lady telling the story of a nine year old in the hospital. So I chose a poem to capture those feelings.)
Click, tap, click, my mother's heels on the hospital tile. Ready for the day? Eating eggs for breakfast. Latex gloves against my skin, piercing needles sucking blood. Eating lettuce with French dressing for lunch. Cold hands on my chest, cold feet on the scale. Smooth pills in my mouth. Brown eyes, blue eyes staring down at the bed. Eating meatloaf for dinner. Click, tap, click, my mother's heels on the hospital tile.
One: A Scene. A phone rings. Hello. Hello, Charles, Kerry. Are you okay, Carey? You don't sound good. I called because I just got a call from Annie. George died last night. My God, what happened? They don't know. How's Annie? She's on her way there now. She's visiting her parents. When are the? I don't know. I'll call you back when I know.
Later, he revisited this piece. Here's how it looks now.
Two: An Obituary. George Valentine was found dead last night at his home. Valentine, a financial consultant, was thirty-four. The cause of his death is still being investigated. He is survived by his wife, Annie.
Three: An Elegy. George, there's an order of things and you've broken it, pal but then you always were a rebel. Thirty-four, people don't die at thirty-four, at least not people I know.
(I actually always wanted to write a poem about when my father died and I never did it, so, I couldn't do it right here in this little bit of time so I kind of wrote it out as just a couple of paragraphs feeling that maybe I could go back and change it into a poem.)
When I tell people now about my father's death, they react as if it were some kind of miracle that I survived the experience. It was two months after my Sweet Sixteen. He was training for the New York City Marathon, running about fifteen miles each day. I called my mother from a friend's house after school to say I'd be home for dinner. "Okay" she said, "I'll see you then." When I got home two or three hours later, the house was empty. There was no smell of dinner on the stove, no sounds of lids being placed on pots. No note. I knew that something had happened but wouldn't allow myself to think about what that something might be. I just waited. When she finally got home and told me what had happened, that my father, whom I had adored, had suffered a heart attack while running on the boardwalk at Long Beach, I wondered how we would pick up the pieces and move on? We did and it didn't seem like a miracle at the time. It seems like what we had to do. Years later it still seems like a miracle.
(What I wanted to remember was my son's first day of school which was, you know, for me a pretty emotional experience, so I did it from his point of view to see if I . . . I didn't want to be mushy about it.)
Later, she revisited this piece. Here's how it looks now.
My mom put out clothes for me today and made me a lunch. I had breakfast, a waffle and juice then we went to the porch. I had a school bag, a backpack to put on. Then we were lined up and my dad took pictures. Next, we walked down to the street. My mom kept looking down the street and touching my hair. Then the yellow bus-it was big-pulled up and I climbed on. I sat by the window and remembered to wave. Why was my mom crying?