In an already crowded apartment
filled with flowers and food and music,
prescriptions and absorbent pads,
ebbing and flowing with friends and family,
nurses and caregivers,
laughter and tears.
The body in the recliner,
the center of attention,
almost in the way,
now talked about as much as talked to.
outpourings of memories,
photographs, here and electronically,
many proceeded by “Tom would hate this…”
recalling a life well lived, now ebbing.
A sad, sweet scene,
one that has taken place since time began,
in caves and plains,
parlors and bedrooms,
hospitals and nursing homes,
wherever there has been life, there will be death.
After seven days of waiting and watching, I quip
“The Jews got it wrong; this is sitting shiva.”
I hold Tom’s hand,
stroke his crepey arm,
tell him that he can go
to that big dance floor in the sky,
I will take care of his beloved Allen.
Allen who has so lovingly taken care of Tom
for almost 35 years,
keeping his secrets,
enduring his stubbornness,
sharing his love of another era,
a deep, unbreakable bond
that will endure beyond this transition.
My own relationship with Tom more fraught,
the phrase “it’s complicated” seemingly developed for this situation:
not always in balance,
but buoyed by love and loyalty, and sometimes rivalry.
As Allen explains it succinctly to the visiting nurse:
Over the years Tom and I developed a routine:
he continually requesting lemons from my backyard tree
me arriving with a bag of yellow orbs
a peace offering,
an attempt at connection,
until one last lemon is proffered:
refused to let go
slept with in his curled palm
all night long
until it too will inevitably be released…