I always tell the people who take my writing classes to listen to the Writers Almanac on NPR. You can even have its daily dose of poetry and Garrison Keillor’s commentary delivered to your email doorstep, hit a link, and hear the podcast. I tell them to listen to it because poetry is the highest writing art, requiring the perfect word and reflecting in a few lines ideas that can bring one to one’s knees. Which just recently happened. I don’t listen everyday. I think I’m too busy. But a friend of mine always emails me about poems she thinks I ought not to miss. And so I read Baptism by one Ted Thomas Jr and felt breathless when I was done because in a single sentence he captured what has happened to me around my mother. He writes in the poem of his father’s helplessness. In the last stanza, he says he “I pat him dry, he lets me dress him in the white hospital clothes, oil his hair, put him to bed and forgive him.”
Bam. That’s what’s happened in all this. I’ve forgiven the resentments I nurtured so close to my heart. In the bathing and dressing and feeding, in her shuffling daily endless need, something has dropped, but not by my insistence. There is only breathless, painful witnessing of frailty, and my attendance upon it as best I can, some days far better than others. This last slow dance we’re in is immediate and huge. All else is nothing.