My wife's grandmother spent so much of her life taking care of other people. She gave love freely, without judgement. I can only hope to live up to her example of compassion and generosity of spirit. She made me feel welcome into her family from the first time that I met her. Well, almost from the start.
She lived in a nursing home for the last eight or nine years of her life. For the last three years, she was greatly diminished. This past year, she slept most of the time. At her last birthday party, I don't even remember her waking up.
I wrote this poem about six years ago, after visiting my wife's grandmother one Saturday afternoon. I had completely forgotten about this until this morning.
In the Nursing Home
by: Martin Achatz
Birds sing. Finches. Canary and sparrow.
Saffron, green, blue feathers.
This time of year, the nests are full
Of new life, creatures smaller
Than thumbnails, blind to their world
Of glass and wood and seed.
My daughter crowds around the enclosure,
Watches anxious flit, hears mother
Birds scream to protect newborns.
Our visit will be short today.
My wife walks her grandmother
To the dining hall, keeps up
A steady monologue of news.
Our daughter's in fifth grade.
Our son's going to be three in September.
When they reach the aviary, they stop.
Her grandmother narrows her eyes
At the flutter and squeak inside.
Emmet hasn't come yet, she says to my wife.
I waited for him yesterday.
She looks up at my wife, says, He never came.
My wife stares at her a few moments.
Grandpa died five years ago, remember?
Her grandmother smiles, nods.
They turn into the dining hall, to the smell
Of turkey and steamed broccoli.
My daughter points to a hatchling
That's fallen out of its nest. It struggles
To return to the place of food, feather comfort.
Help it, my daughter says to me.
Someone will, I say, not sure
If I'm telling the truth or not.
I stare at the tiny bird's pink skin,
At its quick, hungry breaths,
Its fatal need for love.
Someone will, I say again.
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