conversations below the astral plane

There is a moment after you move your eye away
when you forget where you are
because you’ve been living, it seems,
somewhere else, in the silence of the night sky.

You’ve stopped being here in the world.
You’re in a different place,
a place where human life has no meaning.

You’re not a creature in a body.
You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity.

Those are the words of Louise Gluck, Poet, from the poem “telescope.” Garrison read them this morning on the writers almanac. Its funny how words stick with you sometimes, maybe I was just ready to hear them. We’re in the anniversary of Dad’s coma period which followed his fall from the roof back in 2006. He would pass in a few weeks in the hands of hospice. During those weeks our family had a campsite set up in the icu waiting room, taking turns sitting with dad, each having our own conversations, holding his hand, talking about memories, what the cubs were up to, who had sent cards, telling him how important it was that he come back, each of us making our own pleadings, saying rosaries, being stern with him, all the while hoping for his fingers to curl around our hand, or his eyes to open, or the EEG to make a little spike, some indication that the conversation wasn’t just one way. We did that for weeks, hoping.

The hospital had sent their ethicist to talk to us and mom when there were no more options neurologically, we were told we’d have to move dad, and given an impossibly short time to find a suitable care facility, or the hospice unit of the hospital. I had been driving back and forth from Virginia, sometimes alone, sometimes with my thenwife who seemed pretty put out by it all. She had insisted on being driven back for a meeting of her writers group the day before he passed, and i made the mistake of listening to why she shouldn’t fly (too expensive?) and we were about an two hours away when the call came in. I wanted to be there with dad and my family and i wasn’t. You can’t do much about the past but i wish i had been there when he went into whatever is after this life.

I had not packed well when I went on one of those visitations and had to buy a warm raincoat. The local sporting goods store had one with a fleece liner and rain shell. I wear that fleece regularly to stay warm in the overly cooled a/c environment at work, and had it with me on the beaches at normandy this summer in the cold windy rain. I think of that time sitting with dad in the icu when i wear it. Its not always sad thoughts, it helps me remember working with him in the rain, fishing with him in the mosquitos, driving with him through the wisconsin countryside. I used to talk with him on saturdays and I remember him telling me how he planned to go up on the roof on his homemade scaffold and work on the chimney. I had said it sounded like a bad idea and that the chimney would go through the winter just fine without his putting the thinbricks back on it. He was sure he could do it, 79 years old and he was sure that his plywood platform with a ladder on it would work fine. Something happened up there, we’ll never know, bees? dizziness? a wiggly platform? reaching too far off the ladder? we’ll never know, all we know is he fell, hit the roof edge, pitched over and hit his temple on the round rock border he put along the sidewalk, the rocks he hauled home from the chimney we took down in minnesota, from the cabin he and mom had honeymooned in some fifty years earlier…

Fall is coming to Aggieland and to most of North America, summers heat will break, the trees will begin to turn, leaves will be raked, furnaces prepped for the winter, snowblowers tuned up, but if you have any inkling to go up and fix something on your roof…don’t. Get a professional who ties themselves off against falls.

And if you have a chance, tell your parents hello, thank them for what they’ve done for you, on the phone, in person, or speak it to the stars.

Be good to each other, we’re all we’ve got.

2 Responses to “conversations below the astral plane”

  1. Terri says:

    Mike….you’re such a superb writer….this moved me to tears.


  2. Doug Landsverk says:

    An artist with words, as well as paint, pencil and architecture. Well said.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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