If you are caring for aging parents, then you may know what it’s like to hope for them to hold on to life, as long as possible. You don’t want your time together to end. Because if your parents do not play the roles they’ve filled for so long, who will?
It’s at this time that our once-close parental relationships can devolve, often spiked by role reversals, power shifts and unresolved issues. As this change takes place, we may also notice just how much we are like our parents. Sometimes this realization causes conflict. In other times, it’s a gentle reminder to treat each other with patience and kindness.
I wrote the following poem about my father in a moment of absolute frustration with his smoking and his lack of care for his own personal health. As I wrote it, I was forced to acknowledge that my frustration does not lie only with him and the smoke.
my dad’s hand quivers on the table
he reaches for another
the carton feeding his fear in doses as he exits the door.
we no longer welcome the smoke in this stale place.
with each i n h a l e
he siphons hope for many new breaths, asking why –
why god made him work harder than others
why life is unfair
why he should try to hold on?
he gives in and gives up. his body gives out.
running ran runner
i think i am not like him. but i roam too.
did he ever love us?
his big city desires become mine. I die trying to fulfill his dreams.
He lets go.