The stripped and shapely
The ghosts of her
The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.
And yet the world,
In its distress,
Displays a certain
~John Updike from “A Child’s Calendar”
Yea, I have looked, and seen November there;
The changeless seal of change it seemed to be,
Fair death of things that, living once, were fair;
Bright sign of loneliness too great for me,
Strange image of the dread eternity,
In whose void patience how can these have part,
These outstretched feverish hands, this restless heart?
~William Morris, “November”
Even as worn and wrinkly I feel these days,
I know there still is beauty hidden within
as I look into your eyes that remember,
your eyes that saw me young
once so smooth and fresh and soft,
in yielding to fit you before we fall
together, beautifully in bloom.
Vigil at my mother’s bedside
Lying still, your mouth gapes open as
I wonder if you breathe your last.
Your hair a white cloud
Your skin baby soft
No washing, digging, planting gardens
Or raising children
Where do your dreams take you?
At times you wake in your childhood home of
Rolling wheat fields, boundless days of freedom.
Other naps take you to your student and teaching days
Grammar and drama, speech and essays.
Yesterday you were a young mother again
Juggling babies, farm and your wistful dreams.
Today you looked about your empty nest
Disguised as hospital bed,
Wondering aloud about
Children grown, flown.
You still control through worry
and tell me:
Get a good night’s sleep
Take time to eat
Call me when you get there
I dress you as you dressed me
I clean you as you cleaned me
I love you as you loved me
You try my patience as I tried yours.
I wonder if I have the strength to
Mother my mother
For as long as she needs.
When I tell you the truth
Your brow furrows as it used to do
When I disappointed you~
This cannot be
A bed in a room in a sterile place
Waiting for death
Waiting for heaven
And I tell you:
Eat, please eat
Call me when you get there.
Great Grandma Elna meeting Noah 5 days before she died, 2008
Elna Schmitz as Elizabeth Barrett Browning in a WSC production in Pullman, Washington in 1940
Only be it understood,
It shall be no trespassing
If I come again some spring
In the grey disguise of years,
Seeking ache of memory here.
~Robert Frost from “On the Sale of My Farm”