The Thing That Got Away

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(google image)

It’s sleet in an April storm
it’s the homeless 22-year-old
outside Grand Central Station
with a sign,
“You don’t know how humiliating this is .  .  .
I just want to go home.”
you want to turn away
but can’t

the thing that got away

it’s not spoken of
in polite conversation
what makes conversation polite?

It squeezes you
boa-like
it stops you
in your purposeful tracks
It muddles your dreams
it asks you why
you abandoned it
what could be more important
than

the you that got away

Jesus in the Eye Clinic

In the waiting room at the ophthalmologist’s office, an elderly gentleman in a suit and tie handed me a pamphlet.

“Would you like this?” he asked, gently.

The cover showed a hand extending out to another hand and the text read, “When will the suffering end?”

“No thank you,” I said. He slowly pulled the pamphlet away.

He and his wife, dressed conservatively in a sweater and long skirt and sensible shoes, mumbled something to each other and looked away.

Proselytizing in the doctor’s office? I’ve never encountered this before. Granted, he was demure and soft-sell. Still, I found it bizarre.

Perhaps I struck him as ungodly because of the color of my nails.

blue nails

The shade is “Sapphires in the Snow,” by OPI. I had a manicure yesterday, was in a Goth kind of mood.

The old man doesn’t know anything about me: that I was a devout Catholic up until my teens, that I even considered being a nun for all of third grade, that I read a thick book about the lives of the saints. Besides, it’s none of his business.

Was it because I was texting my husband? Does that a heathen make? I was a bit nervous about the eye appointment.

Then I realized he might not be proselytizing for Jesus at all. Perhaps he and his wife are Kevorkian-ites, advocating assisted suicide. Now I can get behind that. “When will the suffering end” could refer to euthanasia as well.

Maybe he thought I was going blind and that my life was no longer of value. Or was that what I was thinking and being an Empath, he picked up on my thoughts? Then the doctor called out a name, and he and his wife exited the waiting room and followed the doctor.

Anyway, I’m not going blind, but I have had floaters for the past two weeks along with dizziness and headaches, and thought it best to have it checked out. No retinal tears, no detached retina—all good.

I’m feeling a bit sensitive, and starting to wonder what was inside the pamphlet the elderly man wanted me to read.

Leaving the clinic, the sun blinded me—pupils dilated—and I had to shield my eyes while crossing the street. It made me feel vulnerable. What would it feel like to be blind, to need a seeing eye dog? Without contact lenses or glasses, the world is a fog to me. All smudged borders and indistinguishable faces. Keith Haring-esque.

What is my purpose? It felt unclear as I continued the journey east towards my office, shielding my eyes, squinting to see.

 

Death Is Not Sexy

The Super Bowl is sexy. Well, at least the Victoria’s Secret commercials and some of the halftime entertainment are, from what I’ve heard. I don’t watch it (sorry), so I don’t know. Death is not sexy.

I haven’t seen my mom in a couple weeks due to the death of my father-in-law and being sick myself, but I spoke to her last night at around 8 p.m. She was in a state.

I don’t like it when she’s in “a state.” Most of the time she seems fairly serene, even content and happy. On other occasions, she is lucid and questions her life and how she’s living.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Not well,” she said, a faint moan in her voice.

“What’s wrong?”

“Everything. I can’t get anything done. What will become of me?”

“What happened, Mom?”

“I can’t get ready for bed. What kind of life is this? I’d rather be dead.”

“I’m sorry you’re upset, Mom.”

“What’s going to happen to me? I can’t do anything, can’t go anywhere.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”

I had no words of wisdom to impart. I agreed with everything she said. What kind of life was this?

“What about the grahams?” she said.

“I’m bringing you the cookies this weekend.”

“Are you sure? Are you really coming?”

“Yes, I’ll be there.”

“It’s been such a long time.”

“Lorin’s father died, then I was very sick last weekend. I didn’t want to get you sick.”

“Oh, right. But you will come this weekend?” Pain in her voice.

“Yes, I promise. I’m sorry you feel so bad. Is there anything good on 13?”

“No, nothing but junk—ads.”

“Oh. There’s still snow on the ground. Isn’t it pretty?”

“Yes, I always like that.”

“It’s going to snow tonight into tomorrow morning, they said.”

“Oh, that’ll be good.”

She loved shoveling snow when we lived in Jackson Heights. I have a photo of her shoveling on the stoop, cheeks flushed and smiling.

“Okay, Mom. Try to get some sleep. I’ll see you in a couple days.”

“Okay, good night, dear.”

She still sounded awful. I didn’t provide any comfort and felt utterly helpless and sad.

She lives at The Actors Home in the Enhanced (Alzheimer’s) Unit, with fellow performing artists. It’s the best place she could possibly be. But I don’t like bearing witness to her pain and suffering.

Jeffory Morshead wrote a bestselling book called Alzheimer’s: The Long Goodbye (The Emotional Aspects of Caregiving). That is what it is: a long death, not a speedy, graceful one. There are different qualities of “good nights” and goodbyes. Last night was not a good one.

Momma glamour shot
Mom as a young actress (photo by Joe Ratke)