Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Poet's Mother’s Death-Bed Conversion

Originally posted elsewhere on Jun. 4th, 2008 | 10:13 pm
{updated 07/03/2014}

My mom was in her hospital bed, smiling with rare warmth. The whiteness of the room was intense under the fluorescent lights. Maybe she was glad because I was the only one in our family to go to see her.

Without me saying anything, she said, “Go ahead, be happy.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“I want you to just be happy.”

Seeing my puzzled expression, she finally said, “You can write poetry.”

I was shocked, and she kept smiling. This was the same person who was so hell bent on me being in science, math, or law. The same person who had said, “Poetry is GARBAGE. Why do you want to add more GARBAGE to the GARBAGE of all the LOUSY people of the world?”

Yes, I was shocked, but hoping to believe it. After all, this time she could be dead in the near future. Maybe this was her death-bed conversion into a supportive mom.

She didn’t have much else to say, and neither did I.

I felt like a terrible dark cloud had been lifted off my head.

I wondered as I drove away if I hadn’t misjudged her all my life.

But then a few weeks later the specialists sorted it out, and it wasn’t advanced liver cancer. It wasn’t any kind of cancer. It was just an anomaly.

So she was out and feeling strong again like her old self at home, in her kitchen.

Then she told me, “You know what I said in the hospital?”

“Yes,” I smiled. This was one of the few truly happy memories I had of her.

“Well, forget it. I only said that because I thought I was dying.”


Guy Mayhem said...

Hilarious. Her deathbed repentance is a reconciliation with you and the gods of poetry. Too bad you're not going to buy it now when she really is on her deathbed.

Jeffrey, I'm James Best. We've never met. I'm an NYU alum, too. Good luck on the journal. We'll probably cross paths one of these days. The poetry world is small and intersecting.

Susan said...

fantastic!!!! love this - such a taboo being a poet...