Tag Archives: Death

Mother May I

Mother may I take your hand, the one you waited for me to hold?
Mother may I spend hour after hour, day after day with you?
Mother may I fill your cup to the top with ice and pour you more pop?
Mother may I drive you to town and buy you every glittering piece of jewelry you lay your eyes on?
Mother may I clean the house until it makes you smile?
Mother may I call you anytime, day or night?
Mother may I fix all of your pains?

Mother, may I have you back now?


Waiting to Die, Part II

Catch up by reading Part I here.

“Oh, my. Oh my,” Coach Dunnigan repeats, “You need to go home,” pinching his eyebrows with concern and pain for me. He stands up from his desk and gives me a hug. My arms wrap around the top of his belly – barely – and he smashes my head into his chest. Black mascara leaks onto his yellow sweater. He pats my head with his massive rough hands, the kind that most guys aren’t blessed with unless they were raised on a farm or have worked hard or are just genetically blessed for women like myself who may or may not have a hand fetish to enjoy.

Nothing I can do will stop my dad from dying, nothing I can plead to God will keep him here . . . nothing. I feel small and unsure of what to do, and I don’t want to leave Dunny’s office. We take a few steps out of his office and he gives me another hug, and another once we are out in the hallway, and another before he sends me on my way back to my room.

Once back in the suite, I try so hard to pack a suitcase with a weeks’ worth of clothes, but I end up getting a small workout in: walking to the closet, turning around to open all three drawers in the dresser, walking out of my room to my desk and pulling out all of its drawers, just to return to my closet, never finding whatever it is I’m looking for. My brain? It’s like I don’t have one. My ability to plan ahead and handle multiple tasks is the one I put the most value on, and it’s failed me.

Some time later, back in the class that I got that first phone call from mom, my professor spilled his coffee and semi-frantically said, “Keep calm and carry on!” and skip-ran to the paper towel dispenser. That was my dad’s favorite quote, which was neatly printed on his favorite coffee cup. He would say that the British or English or whoever would say it during a war. Or something like that, during a time when it was definitely difficult to stay calm. But somehow, dad was always calm, no matter what was happening. Obviously not like me and my reactions in the course of the day. Finally, Grandpa calls me back and says that, no, Mom was not exaggerating and yes, dad has pneumonia. His request was that he not receive any kind of treatment.

“ Dunny told me to go home,” I say.

“Just hang tight for a bit,” he says gently, “Let me see what Grandma thinks and what your mom wants. I’ll talk to you in a bit, sweetheart.”

While I wait, I shuffle around the suite relocating clothes and shoes and shampoo but not actually getting anything packed.

Why? Why is this happening? Why now? Why me? The “poor me” syndrome is taking effect, and it’s burning every part of me. My life is a mess, my family is crumbling and old and ill. Why can’t I have a normal life, with normal parents who aren’t almost 30 years apart age-wise, who aren’t emotionally unstable, who aren’t dying so fast.

Grandma calls and says that dad is not well. She was a home health and hospice nurse for twenty or thirty years and watched people die daily. She was calloused to this stuff. But at the end of the phone call, she started crying. Shit was real. I was going home to wait until my dad died.

Waiting to Die, Part 1

Join me on the journey through my father’s death.
Part one. 

I’m sitting in class when my phone lights up. For the last month or so the phone has been an omen; when it rings, one thing or another is wrong or Mom is making a huff about something that really isn’t a problem. I slide my finger over the screen to “Ignore.”

She was probably calling just to pass time or complain about how hot it was in the room or how loud George’s TV was or to tell me that she was alone all day at the nursing home; alone, with a hundred old people. A minute later the light is blinking green, telling me she left a voicemail, too, as if I wouldn’t see that she called. Guarantee it starts off, “Hey Jess, it’s Mom. It’s about (insert time) and I’m just calling for (insert reason).”

While I’m walking back to my dorm room, I listen to Mom’s message: “Dad – sob – has – gasp – pneumonia – sob – again,” along with a few other slurred words coated in tears.

When she cries, it’s like someone pulls the skin on her face toward the back of her head and her lips get all tight, making it difficult to understand what the hell she says. After her and dad got married, she decided to get lip liner tattooed on. Obviously that doesn’t sound like a good idea in the first place, but something went wrong and now her lips are kind of. . .stuck. Or maybe it’s her medicine. Hell, it could be a bunch of things.

I delete it and call her back. She sounds upset and congested, nose packed full of snot. But she manages to get out “Dad has pneumonia again. The doctors have given him a few days to live.”

I get into the suite and, thinking the room was empty, throw my backpack and water bottle onto the floor, take two stomps to my room and slam the door. I don’t believe this. I don’t believe her. She talks for a while longer. I hear none of it. We hang up.

I cry. At 21 I’m losing my father of everything but my genes, the man who taught me so many things. Every thought is focused on how awful this is going to be for me. Not mom, not my brothers, not anyone but myself.

Through my annoying hot tears, I scroll through my contacts and tap on Grandma’s name to call. No answer. Grandpa, no answer. There’s a stupid drip of snot about to come out of my nose and slide its way to my mouth. I need a damn Kleenex.

Little did I know, Leslee, one of my roommates, is here. Even though she is the youngest of the four of us, she’s kind of the “mom.” She has a soft, kind face with huge dark blue-grey eyes.All she says is, “Do you wanna talk about it?”

I take a deep breath in, wipe a few tears from my cheeks, and in a rush tell her everything mom said. She opens her arms and says, “Oh, hunny, c’mere.”

And she holds me, the 5’9” hardass shot putter against her gentle 5’7” frame, and lets me cry and shake and gasp and get her shoulder wet.

Leslee and I walk to the cafeteria for lunch to get my mind off Dad and home. I nibble on a piece of crusty pizza. Thoughts of wanting and needing to go home are swarming in my head: “Do I go home? What about track? I feel like I need to be there for mom. . .but the conference meet is next week, I need to be here. And I have an appointment for my tattoo to be filled in.”

Leslee is trying to keep things light by talking about the weather and this funny thing that happened to her this morning. But I keep quiet. My internal thought debate is too much for me to handle, so I pick up my phone to text my coach, telling him that I need to talk. “I’m in my office,” prompts me to excuse myself from Leslee, put my tray up, and walk with a hot face through the cafeteria fighting tears and telling my throat to relax.

I hate crying. When I do, I get pissed that I’m crying and then cry even more. In the back of my head I know that it’s bound to happen as soon as I see Coach Dunnigan. As one of his throwers, he treats us girls like we’re his granddaughters; when we’re one-on-one with him, he cares for us, asking about our day and classes and families, and giving us big grandpa-like hugs. He just has something about him that makes me open to him.

Initiate stone-face.

No tears escape, mostly because it’s below freezing and I’m power walking. I get to the Field House, which has our indoor track and coaches offices, and pieces start to break off my mask.

My bottom lip pulls down at the corners.

Enter the hallway, my breathing gets heavy.

Open the door to the coaches offices, my body is shaking.

I step in to Dunny’s office, he starts with a smile, sees my face and changes his, then asks, “What’s up kiddo?”

The Relationship Between Me and Death

I have met with Death, it showed no care for me,

It looked me face to face but left me alone.

Suppose it knows Life’s plan for me

And knows he cannot interfere. . .


Life and I run away from him.

Life challenges me and I antagonize it.

And Death? He sits back watching the show.

When he comes for me, if it is before the time of my beloved,

I will push and fight and kick and scream

And will not go.

The Reaper

On Driving to Missouri

Those gravestones on the bluff, a congregate of death

All winding to the top without a single breath.

Around the deadly blunt, each occupant is stoned

The spirits, floating by, let out a mournful groan

While maggots in their flesh do break their bodies down.

There in the dirt their bodies lay becoming one with ground.