A month’s daily output here has been dramatically interceded upon by a marked jolt to my Pops’ biographical timeline, in the form of another stroke. He has surprised us by being the proverbial Eveready bunny after past setbacks.
Not so, this time.
This afternoon, my daughter took his hand in hers (first holding it alongside my hand, and then taking it into both her own). For minutes upon minutes on end, she stroked the back of his hand, and then his forearm. Put her soft-soft nine-year-old girl cheek against his hand. All the while, smiling at him radiantly, deeply. As if she knew something he and I didn’t quite. We both looked on in wonder.
(By way of explanation to the children: “Think of DadDad as a magnificent castle, and room by room – sometimes a whole wing at a time –the lights are going out.”)
Later I read to him from poems I thought he might remember, he of the generation who was schooled to memorize the greats. (I love Mary Oliver, but she is his contemporary, no one he put to memory as a schoolboy in knickers.)
I read and he listened, rapt, though more or less speechless, as he has been, essentially, since Thursday night. Whether the words engaged or a memory of the musical sound of rhythmic speech, I don’t know. Coleridge, Keats, Shelly each had something to offer. Blake’s “The Tiger” seemed familiar. But Walt Whitman’s “Sleepers” touched, his one good eye told me so. A global meandering, precursor to the travels he may soon take up.
I stay a while away O night, but I return to you again and love you.
Why should I be afraid to trust myself to you?
I am not afraid, I have been well brought forward by you,
I love the rich running day, but I do not desert her in whom I lay so long,
I know not how I came of you and I know not where I go with you, but
I know I came well and shall go well.
I will stop only a time with the night, and rise betimes,
I will duly pass the day O my mother, and duly return to you.