Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27: Nothing Harder, Chalice of His Hands, Poet of the Week, Sharon Olds, "The Waiting"

I had drinks with an old school friend after work today.  We talked about our daughters, families, struggles.  I told him about my sister's health problems, and, when I was done, we sat in silence for a couple of moments.  Then my friend said something like, "There's nothing harder than love."

The night ended with bad news, however.  Dr Junk (I'm not joking--that's his name), my sister's oncologist at the University of Michigan, told my other sister that Sally "isn't responding to the treatment as well as he hoped."  He said, "Maybe it's time to take her home and make her comfortable."  Of course, my other siblings are upset.  They think Dr. Junk isn't giving Sally enough time to respond, that she is improving a little.  "How can he say that?" another of my sisters asked.

I tried to be a voice of reason.  I told them to ask for a second opinion.  I also told them to ask Dr. Junk on what evidence he's basing his assessment.  "But," I said, "we need to think long and hard about this."  I told them that, if the doctor who's consulted for a second opinion agrees with Dr. Junk, then we have a difficult decision to make.  "What's going to be better for her?" I said.  "I don't want my sister dying in a nursing home downstate, surrounded by strangers."

It's the first time I've voiced that thought to members of my family.  Both of my sisters nodded grimly and walked away from me.

I felt horrible saying what I said.  It feels like I'm giving up on my sister.  If I had some kind of divine Magic 8-Ball to help me, I would be shaking it like crazy right now.  But I don't.  I'm not going to do an Ives dip tonight.  I just can't.  Sorry.  This is the passage of which I keep thinking:

At a quarter to two in the morning, he allowed his face to slowly lower into the chalice of his hands, and he wept until he could not see.

I've decided to name Sharon Olds as the Poet of the Week.  I know that Sharon has held the post in the past, but I've been rereading her collection The Father, which is about the death of her father.  It has been speaking to me a great deal.

Saint Marty's friend was right:  there is nothing harder than love.

The Waiting

by:  Sharon Olds 

No matter how early I would get up
and come out of the guest room, and look down the hall,
there between the wings of the wing-back chair
my father would be sitting, his head calm
and dark between the wings.  He sat
unmoving, like something someone has made,
his robe fallen away from his knees,
he sat and stared at the swimming pool
in the dawn.  By then, he knew he was dying,
he seemed to approach it as a job to be done
which he knew how to do.  He got up early
for the graveyard shift.  When he heard me coming down the
hall, he would not turn--he had
a way of holding still to be looked at,
as if a piece of sculpture could sense
the gaze which was running over it--
he would wait with that burnished, looked-at look until
the hem of my nightgown came into view,
then slew his eyes up at me, without
moving his head, and wait, the kiss
came to him, he did not go to it.
Now he would have some company
as he tried to swallow an eighth of a teaspoon
of coffee, he would have his child to give him
the cup to spit into, his child to empty it--
I would be there all day, watch him nap,
be there when he woke, sit with him
until the day ended, and he could get back into
bed with his wife.  Not until the next
dawn would he be alone again, night-
watchman of matter, sitting, facing
the water--the earth without form, and void,
darkness upon the face of it, as if
waiting for his daughter.

Love--hard work even for Jesus

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