by Robert W. Gill
Copyright - December 26, 1999
It always starts with a phone call.
though whether I'm speaking of the poems
or the things they describe I'm not entirely sure.
December 22nd, 6 a.m.
My sleep is broken by the phone
and my first thought is "who the hell is calling this early".
When I hear my father's strong voice on the other end though
I know something is wrong.
The nursing home called him at 4 a.m.
- what a way to start the day.
He waited as long as he could
wanting to reach his children at home rather than at work.
We chatted for a bit and as we did
emotions I did not expect well up inside me
until I let him go, fall back on my bed,
and let tears stream down my face.
My grandfather is dead.
As I kneel before his coffin and look upon his face
I realize he has lost weight in the month since I last saw him.
I visited him with my brother while he recovered from pneumonia.
He slept most of the time we were there,
though I saw him crack open his eyes once,
a brief smile curling the corners of his lips.
A month ago he looked very much like the man
I remember being my grandfather.
Today he is a hollow shell of the man I once knew.
Emotions once more wells up within me when
my grandmother cracks a comment about the makeup coating his face.
It's not dark enough she says. He looks pale.
We banter back and forth as the sadness retreats for a while more.
As I read from the new testament at his funeral I remember
walking to this church with him when I would stay over as a child.
It seemed so much bigger to me then but now
barely contains the memory of the man.
A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels,
nor principalities, nor present things not things to come,
nor powers nor height nor depth, nor anything else can separate us...
At the grave I stand beside my brother and sister,
our arms wrapped around each other in support.
The priest's words drift past my mind and my voice replies automatically
with responses I've made too many times.
Pent up tears roll down my face as a bitter wind blows.
By his passing he has, at last,
escape the prison of Alzhemier's.
When I close my eyes I see him standing on the shores
of some distant place
greeting the friends and family who went before him,
who prepared a place for him.
I see Army buddies from the war.
I see him greet his mother with joy.
And I see him turn back to me,
hand waved in a wave,
as he did each time we said good-bye.