Friday, February 09, 2007

Animal Nightmares (Backwards Worries)

Keith sleeps on the couch, legs twitching like a dog

running in a dream. I leap, perhaps unreasonably, from man to dog

to squirrel, to that squirrel hit in the road, thrashing with the pain of its death

throes. In hard rain. I remember thinking then that I didn’t want to die

like that, in broken agony, cold and wet, drowning in a downpour.

Alone. Let me die, I thought, quietly in my sleep when I’m in my nineties

or hundreds. Or let me live forever, warm and comfy, slipping directly

into heaven or nothingness without any of the pain or fear of dying.

I heard several stories about my mother’s death. She died

peacefully in her sleep, one nurse told me. Another described the death

rattle of her breathing. So sudden and unexpected, when shortly before,

they’d checked her and she was fine. Many years ago, my mother was rushed

to the hospital one morning, after lying awake for hours in pain and anguish.

If I had died, she said, they might have said I died peacefully in my sleep.

Keith sleeps on, his twitching subsided now. I had a dog once

that cried and yelped and twitched in his dreams, and not with running.

Every time he fell asleep, his old owner beat him. We rescued him

from a stock truck on a cattle ranch. We don’t know who had locked

him there and left him

for over a week with no food or water, but we know that man’s inner heart.

A dementia patient, someone told me, loses the ability to communicate pain.

My mother seemed okay, before she died. Fading, but not in pain.

“The dwindles,” perhaps. She had the dwindles once before, her doctor

thought. They start downhill, he said, and it’s like a snowball

gathering momentum. At the home, no one tried to stop it, until I insisted

on appetite stimulants, anti-depressants and sleeping pills.

We turned it around, the doctor said. Amazing.

Now, Keith sleeps alone on the couch, but I think how the kitties loved him,

how they used to lie on and around him, in relaxed abandon or asleep.

Little symphonies of snores and purring. My mother always said

she wasn’t worried about dying. Fred’s father drowned

in a sailing accident, and my colicky baby, who never slept, slept

on Fred’s shoulder for hours at the wake. When I offered to take her,

he simply shook his head.

I wasn’t there when my mother died. I didn’t know she was dying, not

then, not so soon. Though when I last visited her, she told me

how she’d seen her parents that day, how they were coming back

for her soon. Maybe they were there with her when she died. Maybe

one of the nurses or aides held her hand. They did that, in the commons.

They held her hand.

Mary Stebbins Taitt

For Margaret, 070209d, first, Friday, February 09, 2007

slightly updated version.


BerryBird said...

This is beautiful. Sniff, sniff.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Thank you! I appreciate it. I worked on it some more, so there is a slightly later version posted on AMARYPOEM or Twelve. Thanks for reading it! :-D