I wrote most of these poems as a farewell to my mother and have shared them with others when I thought they might help.
Today (April 27, 2014) I’m sharing them as part of poetry month . . . and to have them safely archived somewhere not at home.
Side note: I was reminded today of my mother telling of her mother, who coped with her noisy brood by turning down her hearing aid when they got too loud. At the end of Revolutionary Road, the realtor’s husband does that, and the sound of his wife’s critical nattering quiets to silence. I’m not actually recommending the (rather depressing) movie, but I did love that one detail and a surprise connection to Mom’s anecdote.
Sitting by Mary Garrett
We spent so much time sitting,
Sitting in doctors’ offices,
Sitting in medical labs,
Sitting in hospital rooms.
During better times we sat in your kitchen, talking;
Then in the dining room at Harvester, both talking;
As you tired, me talking and knitting, you listening;
As you became too tired to even listen, just sitting.
You sat in your wheelchair to visit restaurants,
Shaw’s Garden, the art museum, the zoo,
(where I nearly lost you on a steep hill),
the Goldenrod Showboat,
(where Mr. Yamamoto taught me to back down steep hills).
Doug called you “love on wheels.”
Returning from the doctor’s one day,
We visited the mama killdeer
Who built her nest next to a parking lot.
You could sit in the car and see her through your window:
Drive-through bird watching!
At the end, we sat by your bed,
Holding your hand, smoothing your brow,
Saying I love you.
Then we were sitting by your still form,
But you? Surely not still sitting —
Soaring, flying free
From this world to another,
Released from all bonds,
Too full of joy to sit.
Verna Fussner October 8, 1924 – August 14, 1999
My mother lived her life for children, her own five, her five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, of course, but she loved and cared for all children. Neighbor children and cousins would come to the house for everything from a snack to a haircut, and especially to be listened to — she was a great listener — and for sensible advice.
When we were all grown, I tried to encourage Mom to develop other interests, hobbies, friends to go places with, but her focus remained her babies, and whatever they needed or wanted, she would try to help them get it. I was looking at a hole I had fixed in a sweater I had knitted for her — a niece had wanted to wear it outside to play in. When it happened, she said, “I don’t know why I let her,” but I know, because she wanted to and it made her happy. We have pictures of little ones playing dress-up with her scarves; she didn’t care if they got wrinkled or dirty because the children were having fun.
Donna and I still have the habit, learned from my parents, of noticing and commenting on cute children we see out in public — and they are all cute! To my mother, children were always the most important part of life, and the love she gave continues in the loving lives they will live.
The Butterfly House by Mary Garrett
In January my mother wanted to see the Butterfly House.
My first thought was to plan it for spring break,
But life is always uncertain. We had mild weather for January,
And school ends blissfully early on exam days.
We rushed to get together all the necessities for an outing,
Medicines, oxygen, personal items.
I phoned for directions, and we set out,
Not actually following the most direct route,
But we got there.
Mom looked in dismay at the long path down to the House,
And then smiled brightly
When I pulled the wheelchair from the trunk of my little Tercel.
“I didn’t know you brought the chair!” she exclaimed.
Had she thought I would have her walk that long way?
Inside, warm summer met us in the middle of winter.
Flying jewels danced through the air,
And a room of chrysalises waited to emerge.
One very special blue giant perched on my mother’s knee,
Completely capturing her heart.
The visit was over too soon,
Closing time found us reluctant to leave.
In spring or summer we can come and stay longer,
But I’m glad we didn’t wait — Carpe diem!
Hawk by Mary Garrett
The baby hawk was trapped in a courtyard,
No food to eat,
No mother to care for him.
He would have starved.
The bird lovers found him,
Took him to the one who knew hawks.
They broke the law to help this bird,
Luckier than the injured owl
That died while the vet waited for permission to treat it.
Fed to full strength, gorged to satiation,
Baby hawk was brought back to his home field.
Startled, he fled toward traffic and danger.
His new friend gently urged him toward grass.
A sound from above warned them away;
Mother hawk perched high above,
Watching her baby, ready to fly to his defense.
He could now be safely left
Where his mother would feed and guard him.
Haiku by Mary Garrett
As a solution for scary situations, nothing can beat my mother’s accidental
creativity. As we walked to the Arch parking lot late at night, discussing
my sister’s keys and my umbrella as self-defense weapons,
Mom said, “I’ll just tell them, ‘Watch out! I know Haiku!'”
— response from a friend:
Mother’s knowledge shines
Daughter’s safety is in words
Self-defense with poetry
— Margaret in Illinois
Verna Fussner by Mary Garrett
Her life is centered around her children,
Though she watches the news and reads the paper,
The current events that really matter
occur within her family circle.
The welfare and happiness of her offspring
are her prime concern.
Trips to the zoo, museums, gardens, storytelling,
and puppet shows with those children
are her major adventures.
Tending her garden and watching the birds at her feeder
are the entertainments of her free moments.
Spring is here, new plants are growing, birds are singing.
New adventures await.
The Bad Boys — I have kept this poem mostly private, but I think there’s an important message there so I’m sharing it now. Caregivers have told me that men are often absent from the lives of those who are very sick, and these male relatives are missed, and missing out, because of that absence. I don’t actually think they are bad, perhaps more unsure of what to do and how to handle illness. Mom and I admired the five sons who every Sunday visited their mom, just to visit . . .
The Bad Sons by Mary Garrett
The bad boys won’t visit their sick mother,
“I don’t do sickness,” they say.
“Hospitals give me the creeps.”
They won’t help fix her leaking roof,
“I’m too busy,” says one. “I don’t know how,” says another.
The mother cries as she explains to people
Who think she only has daughters,
“No, I have three boys, but they never visit.”
She begins introducing her neighbor as
“My adopted son, the one who visits.”
On Christmas, when they come for a brief visit,
She rejoices, “I’m so happy, I have my b . . . .,
I have all my children with me today.”
The boys don’t know what they’ve missed,
The tender moments shared, the life lessons learned,
The pleasure of being told, “You’re such a good daughter,”
The comfort of having no regrets.
They don’t realize what they have taught their children.