The Shades Are Down

I wrote this poem in 1973. My father had a brain tumor of the most aggressive kind, and he hung on to life for nine months, at least his body did. As time progressed, the tumor and corresponding treatment blocked the essence of my father from making it out of the barriers that jailed him inside his brain. It was gradual, but quick. Sudden, but painstakingly unending.

Since the operation
I’ve tried to look in
and find my father,
but the shades are down,
the windows shuttered.

Sometimes I stand outside
and tap on the window panes
trying to get him
to look out,
to see me.

Somedays I gaze
at the house
from a distance,
trying to reconcile myself
to the fact
that the house is there,
and my father is inside,
but can’t get out,
can’t look to see
me–us–his family.

And I cry.

But today I called home,
and he answered the phone!
I could see him
for a moment
through sheer curtains.

And I cry.

I have just spent two weeks with my mother. She has the same strong body, with a brain that now clicks in and out like a radio searching to find the sweet spot where everything is clear. It has been an eleven year journey, so far. Good days and confused days. Deep conversations and repetition. Music, laughter, coffee-time treats: I treasure my time with her.

My beloved parents are children of God. One in heaven. One still here. One thing they always know for sure: God loves them, and they love Him.

As Dad was dying, I cried for his pain, and I cried with joy for his promised eternity with God in heaven. It’s the same with Mom, but spread out over years. And God is good, all the time, in every circumstance. We are not alone. He is here.

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