writing to heal

Monday Morning Musings #11 It Starts with Scrabble

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It Starts with Scrabble

 

It starts with Scrabble

in 2016.

“Bort,” you spell it

and with that one word

we lose

a little piece of life as we know it

as fear and dread join our happy, immortal family.

 

Fast forward two years and you forget

your beloved dog in the paper shop.

You are convinced your wife is missing.

You come to hate being alone.

As your handwriting wavers,

your skill at Sudoku wanes until

even the easy one is left unfinished,

like your sentences.

 

Searching for words your famous eloquence

stumbles into clumsiness.

On your 90th birthday you thank those gathered,

“For, for, for, being so, um good.”

 

Our hearts plummet like stones.

 

Then slowly we start to miss your smile,

and that enthusiasm wanders off,

while you reach first for a walking stick,

then a steadying arm

and ultimately, a wheelchair.

 

Eight weeks later cancer claims your continence

and you check out.

The plastic bag strapped to your calf is the end of your world

and the end of ours with you in it.

 

Each morning now, Biz must heave

your leaden limbs into your sleeves,

haul up your socks

and cram unyielding feet not into shoes but slippers.

 

Eyes closed and steepled fingers,

you doze through daylight

and fill your nights with wandering and terror.

 

Josh finds you on the kitchen floor at dawn,

a teatowel on your head.

Lost in your own home.

 

May finds you stuck in sleep,

delirious, disturbed, dizzy, disorientated

and fast-tracked to decline.

 

You are confused.

Dreams and reality merge until

each day is an adventure.

You visit Australia, India, Norway, France

and ask how long it takes to fly back home.

 

Cancer comes again to claim your pancreas

and we can no longer nurse you.

It takes six weeks for soft sides

to cot you now in bed

and a plastic cup to sport a spout.

 

And yet, despite all this

you never lose your love for us.

You kiss our hands, wave fragile fingers when we leave

and welcome every touch.

 

Today, I say goodbye to you again,

each time, I fear will be my last.

“I love you,” I say.

“See you in two weeks.”

My heart is heavy with what may turn out to be a lie,

my chest stings with tears.

“I hope so,” you say.

“You’re the best.”

And then you wink

and I dissolve in sorrow on the stairs.

It starts with Scrabble

in 2016.

“Bort,” you spell it

and with that one word

we lose

a little piece of life as we know it

as fear and dread join our happy, immortal family.

 

Fast forward two years and you forget

your beloved dog in the paper shop.

You are convinced your wife is missing.

You come to hate being alone.

As your handwriting wavers,

your skill at Sudoku wanes until

even the easy one is left unfinished,

like your sentences.

 

Searching for words your famous eloquence

stumbles into clumsiness.

On your 90th birthday you thank those gathered,

“For, for, for, being so, um good.”

 

Our hearts plummet like stones.

 

Then slowly we start to miss your smile,

and that enthusiasm wanders off,

while you reach first for a walking stick,

then a steadying arm

and ultimately, a wheelchair.

 

Eight weeks later cancer claims your continence

and you check out.

The plastic bag strapped to your calf is the end of your world

and the end of ours with you in it.

 

By spring, your wife must heave

your leaden limbs into your sleeves,

haul up your socks

and cram unyielding feet not into shoes but slippers.

Eyes closed and steepled fingers,

you doze through daylight

and fill your nights with wandering and terror.

Josh finds you on the kitchen floor at dawn,

a teatowel on your head.

Lost in your own home.

 

May finds you stuck in sleep,

delirious, disturbed, dizzy, disorientated

and fast-tracked to decline.

You are confused.

 

Dreams and reality merge until

each day is an adventure.

You visit Australia, India, Norway, France

and ask how long it takes to fly back home.

 

Cancer comes again to claim your pancreas

and we can no longer nurse you.

It takes six weeks for soft sides

to cot you now in bed

and a plastic cup to sport a spout.

 

And yet, despite all this

you never lose your love for us.

You kiss our hands, wave fragile fingers when we leave

and welcome every touch.

Today, I say goodbye to you again,

each time, I fear will be my last.

“I love you,” I say.

“See you in two weeks.”

My heart is heavy with what may turn out to be a lie,

my chest stings with tears.

“I hope so,” you say.

“You’re the best.”

And then you wink

and I dissolve in sorrow on the stairs.

 

15th August 2018

3 thoughts on “Monday Morning Musings #11 It Starts with Scrabble”

  1. Oh yes Jo, this resonates only too well. It was my refined mum putting the pan of gravy on the exquisitely embroidered tablecloth, and laying spoons for knives that started alerting us. Also not knowing how to cook potatoes any more or not being able to write down her grandson’s new address.
    But she did always remember me, if not my name and she told me she loved me before she couldn’t speak any more.
    It is heartbreaking and your poem is very deeply touching. Thank you.

    Like

    1. Thank you, Maggie. I believe that if a poem touches one person it has worked well. Sometimes the only person it touches is yourself and that is okay too. So thank you for appreciating it.

      Like

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