LONG WAY HOME
By Elizabeth Reeke
“Love is never
any better than the lover.” — Toni Morrison
I watch you slumped over in the wheelchair,
Breathing easier with the oxygen;
But now and again, your head jerking from side to side,
Or your fingers fluttering and fidgeting in your lap.
I wonder, do you see something?
When I put my arm around your shoulders and speak quiet words,
You tentatively draw two, then three, deep breaths,
And with a sigh, your eyes open and gaze directly into my own
from some far distant place.
My heart aches with longing.
When I am away, I still see you lying in that bed
with its horrid metal bars surrounding you;
Or sitting in the chair with belting wrapped all around your middle.
I think of times when I would urge you to skip down the walk with me,
And you’d do that cute little double skip;
Or swimming at the Y in our funny little tank suits,
Waiting while you powdered, and unwrapped your hair,
And visited with your lady friends.
Was that so long ago?
We ate bright red cherries with our stained red lips,
But didn’t hold one another.
Death is not so simple, not so pretty.
It is rasping, wheezing, straining, swollen.
It is hanging head, tightly closed eyes through long, long hours.
Do you know I smooth your hair from your face
And softly run my hand over your damp forehead?
That I gently wrap you in love?
Where does your spirit travel
While I sit with my sadness and tears?
I am living in two worlds as the light fades and the shadows lengthen —
In one, I am somewhere on that final mystical journey across the mountains
I began with you so long ago.
In the other, I am here holding you, telling you you’re not alone;
Singing, resting my cheek on your own;
Holding in these little hands the full measure of our lives,
Its mystery and beauty, its pain and sadness,
The separation and the aching, aching stillness.
Did I love well enough?
Copyright © 2015 by Elizabeth Reeke.