Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reunions: Father, July 18, 1990 (Poem)

Reunions: Father
July 18, 1990

Scene 1: 2909 North Nottingham Street

The clock set at 4:15 p.m.
Before 4:30 I lost you
in a chiming of ever-closer sirens.

From you to phone to glass door I
watched for that blur of red
— rose-deep, a harder color than I want to remember —
screaming to come clear.

Help in a red and white wagon pushing
for last tries before unlasting breaths.

The pulse punishes the memory, the adrenaline
maxing out when you need it most.

The noise was a pain.
Everywhere for seven minutes before
then suddenly here where it had to be.

My hands to my ears,
automatic-like, did no one any good.

I didn't expect the rescue in front of me to go bad.

I didn't want to be in control

Of a 63-year-old woman panicking
and my not-yet two-year-old urging,
Grandpa get up! Grandpa get up!

This is the part
of the parts I never reacted to:

How a half-dozen volunteers arrived
in less than eight minutes

How they rolled up a corner
of the antique Persian carpet

How they pulled you
from the bathroom where you collapsed
to the place we call the living room

Where they used mouth-to-mouth
— so much better were they than I —
and shot you up to trick your heart into rising again

How they couldn't wait
to stash the detritus of their care

How I couldn't wipe away the sticky pool of cells
absorbing our newly refinished floor

How it was over
and then just began

A neighbor I had not let in
saying, Go. Don't give it any mind.
I'll take care of it. And the baby.

(Did I forget about the baby?)

Scene 2: 1701 North George Mason Drive

I, in front with the driver,
you, Dad, in back,
an EMT still doing his best
to keep your beat to the beat.

In Emergency, before I quit
telling them I couldn't sign any papers,
you, alone in some cubicle with a doctor
making decisions of his own, were already gone.

Kept busy answering for information
not one of us had, I cycled all the numbers
from Jacksonville, to Venice, and  Ft. Myers, Florida
to Indiana, Kentucky, and Bethpage, Tennessee

Startled into starting all over again
when a nurse hushed us to a private room.

The news was changed.

I couldn't have prepared for
the difference I saw
in you

Cleaned up, that sheet of antiseptic white
giving no hint of the way
your chest had been pounded.

Lifelines removed, your eyes stiller,
the curtains on their rolling rings
shutting in a private moment

A wife somewhere carrying on.

We were together
one last time before our last time.

How much time
was enough time
to be with you?

Cases waited. They needed the space.

Someone asked about organ donations.
Someone else said you were too old

To give up
anything but your corneas.

I asked what you'd want. Your license didn't say.

On the way out I took in hand
a brown paper bag, more fragile than the satchel
we lug groceries in. More plain than the kind for tidying
papers we bundle every Wednesday.

T-shirt. Socks (no match: you were color-blind).
Black shoes? (A guess.) Belt. Billfold.
Watch worn since retirement.

Left over
Left out
Left for.

What I have of you still
I hold in safe-keeping

Your watch keeping its own time.

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

This is my recollection of my father's unexpected death on July 18, 1990, at my home on Nottingham Street, where I lived at the time. Virginia was Dad's last stop after several weeks of traveling about with my mother to visit children and grandchildren. He and my mother, with my son in tow, had been out all day, seeing friends. Within 15 minutes of my arrival home from work that afternoon, Dad was dead. He was not yet 74. He was honored for his World War II service with modified military honors (meaning all honors but a horse-drawn caisson) and is buried on a hill in one of the oldest sections of Arlington National Cemetery off Pershing Drive, where the sun beats the ground hard on a summer's day and the grass refuses to grow much and from which the view of  Washington, D.C., is beautiful at any time of year. The sound of Taps and 21-gun salutes continue there still.

This is my contribution to L.L. Barkat's Random Acts of Poetry prompt: to write a poem about a certain street or street address. Mine on Nottingham Street is one I can't forget.

Links to poems by other RAP participants can be found in the comment box here.  Check there through March 18 for additions.


Glynn said...

Maureen, this is beautiful and painful and so many other things I don't know where to start. I, too, carried my father's paper bag out of the hospital on March 11, 1987, two days after he died of a stroke. He would have been 71 at the end of the month, so it sounds like our fathers were the same age.

Without realizing it, you wrote this for both of us, and likely many more.

katdish said...

To say so much with so few words is truly a beautiful thing. Thank you for sharing this.

Louise Gallagher said...

Hello my lovely friend,

Today I awoke and as I meditated a thought, or two, of my brother flittered through my mind. He died on this day twleve years ago. I don't think of him often. The 'missing' having lost the hard edges of anger of so much time not lived loving. You see, my brother was an alcoholic. We didn't have much time together as adults. I couldn't abide by his drinking. And he couldn't stop drinking.

I thought -- I must write of my brother today. and then, I avoided it thinking -- first I'll go read my friends' words....

Thank you. Your words sadden me. Your words release me.



Monica Sharman said...

Maureen, you have allowed me into a special place. You have written beauty in the pain.

Anonymous said...

This broke my heart. Your images are so clear and so jumbled all at once-- just like events like that always are in our memories.

Laura said...

I am weeping, sharing in this loss with you today. I cannot imagine, and yet, your words made me do so. All I can think of is the baby...such a way to start out.

I feel the rawness, the ever-newness of the pain of loss here, Maureen.

sarah said...

Very lovely stuff.

L.L. Barkat said...


Anonymous said...

like glynn,
i feel you have written this for many.

Kelly Sauer said...

"The clock set..."

I froze when I realized your meaning.

I wept as I read.

It is as if I were there, watching with you, feeling with you. Inside I scream against it, "no, no, no, make it stop, he can't be dead, the baby can't see this, You have to make it better."

Sometimes things that just have to happen don't. It tears us apart with the groaning it leaves.

The why must go unanswered here.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

red or gray black and white said...

a catch in my throat as the words poured over me

Megan Willome said...

Thanks, Maureen. You really bring the unexplainable to life. I lost my mother two weeks ago today--a quieter death, but no less wrenching.

Kathleen Overby said...

Missing dad tears mingling with yours. Wet cheeks. Bruised heart.
Blessings to you for writing this. Hugs, kisses and whisker rubs.

Diane Walker said...

Wow. Something else we have in common: I lost both my parents to sudden heart attacks. Two major differences, though: I wasn't there, either time. And I'm not sure I could ever describe the experience -- even if I had been there -- as beautifully as you do here. Thank you for helping me understand what my father and stepmother went through.

Sunrise Sister said...

Maureen -
This is an exquisitely rendered remembrance of a place, a time, a moment. So moving and so moving that you've shared it in writing with us your readers. My spouse is chaplain to our town's EMTs and even as I read your words, feeling your desperation, I felt also their desperation in so wanting to save this life that was obviously so precious to those at the scene. I note in my life times of death of my loved ones - not being there was horrible but being there might have been more. I don't know that I want to be there for sudden death - so futile, so helpless, so out of one's hands for the loved life to slip away - totally out of our control. Again, thank you for sharing this vulnerable moment in your life and that of your family's life.

S. Etole said...

thank you for bringing us into this with you ...

Unknown said...

speechless, yet full of raw emotion. That's how your words have left me. I feel for you.

Unknown said...

knowing loss in my own unique way.

can i silently share in yours?

as for the actual wording and prose... i stand in wonder and often think to myself: how does she do it?

Sam Van Eman said...

A wonderful and captivating re-telling, Maureen.

SimplyDarlene said...

You thread such beauty out of pain and love...

As the "baby" myself, I haven't retained my father or his passing...wild and quiet drinking, meanness, shattered lives, broken hearts, his other kids nearly as old as my mom. It's all gone. With him.