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Tag Archives: promises

found poem: wary

found poem: THE PROMISE

found poem: consume

found poem: she inherited

remembering…

LRK-DAK honeymoonSometimes my memory feels like a bad old piece of film, scratched and fuzzy, the sound distorted, the images stuttering from scene to scene.

This is toward the end of my father’s life, so about 15 years ago. He and I are in the car together, driving north on Pacific Coast Highway, past Malibu, near Point Dume. We have driven here before, years earlier, on Sunday drives when the three of us would spend the day just beyond the margins of the city. But this memory, this broken bit of film, is much more recent.

I cannot figure out where we were going or why we were alone in the car but I remember our conversation. We talked about my mother. We talked about her a lot in those days, on the drives to his radiation treatments, or the doctor, he having finally ceded the driving to me. These small gestures — letting me drive, emerging from reticence to talk about a topic as personal as Dorothy’s frailties — were an admission, a sign, that he understood he was facing his own mortality, though he never said it in so many words.

But Dorothy had been in decline for years, losing bits of functionality like feathery hankies dropped along the way, and he had picked them up, carried on, filling in where she could not. His own infirmity was a startling intruder; illness was not his familiar, and on the very few occasions when he had to deal with something worse than the common cold, he didn’t take kindly to it.

Now, though, he had a dignity, a grace, and a bit of tiredness. If he was angry or afraid he never let on. The only thing that worried him was my mother. He seemed confident that I would be okay, would continue to manage my life. But he knew, we both knew, that managing was exactly what Dorothy could not do. She already had help, someone who could do the filling-in, but he wasn’t worried about the mechanics of daily life. He was worried about the big picture: that issues would be weighed and considered and decisions made for her welfare; that she would be protected and safe in the world without him.

That day, on that drive, and many times in the short months that followed, I gave him my word that I would be there for her, that I would protect her as he would want, that he could trust me to do so. We both knew it was not an easy promise.

As I roll this memory around like a small stone in my mouth it comes to me that my father and I had created a diversion that day, had asked a cousin to come visit with Dorothy for a little while, so that we could have some time alone to talk. She certainly would have wanted to come along if she thought we were going for a drive, but we made our escape, drove to the ocean, talked.

Perhaps we stood on the bluffs or walked in the sand; I don’t remember that part. I only remember this bit of film…the two of us in the car…our conversation…the squeezing poignancy of two loving, silent people finding words for hard subjects…the asking for assurance…the promise made.

And kept.

promises…

25 promises
In the back of a file, I find this treasure, which slips into my hand unencumbered by memory — handwriting labored, misspellings consistent, spacing not quite figured out.

What was the lie? Surely it was my mother who imposed this punishment (a teacher would have corrected the spelling)…or was she just looking for a way to get me out of her hair for a few minutes?

In any case, it didn’t work. I improved my handwriting, learned to spell, got better at spacing, found out about split infinitives…but I broke the promises. I lied again. Sorry, mom.

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