He said to me:
“I don’t want to go first.
I don’t want her
to have to grieve”.
I can understand that.
I could not have understood it
some years ago.
It wouldn’t have crossed my mind.
But in the past few decades
I think differently
about a lot of things.
I keep company with many folks
\who have already dealt with things
I don’t want to think about
but can’t help that thinking.
So every day I move into its hours
and put it aside certain things as best I can.
Maybe you already know it.
I didn’t until recently.
The moon is receding from the earth
at the same rate our finger nails grow.
That isn’t much
but by the time
our great grand children’s nails
have grown as much as ours
it might begin to be noticeable.
If I were in charge of this receding
I would prefer it to be
at the rate our toe nails grow.
What I would really like is
for my toe nails to stop growing.
They have been most difficult to reach
since I’ve become ninety.
it seems to me that
I forget more than I ever knew.
Now, I know that’s impossible.
But sometimes feelings take on
and overcome good sense.
In fact, I believe that such craziness
has visited me before
and my feelings tend to win.
This may have happened to you
a few times in your life
and if so
you can understand my plight.
And, if not
you will never know how it is
to know how I feel.
Perhaps that is just as well –
but maybe not.
astronomers around the world
saw things through
that amazed them.
Though I read about it
I failed to comprehend
the written word.
But I did grasp that
they saw something
and what they saw occurred
a hundred and forty
billion years ago.
I do wonder if my body
will ever astound astronomers
(or anyone with a good telescope)
a good many years hence
if they see me from afar
a billion years hence.
I will, of course have died
but the slowness of light years
will have saved me
and I will be visible somewhere.
The house of my childhood –
the house that spawned so many memories
has been reduced to rubble.
No fire consumed it –
no wind blew it to the ground.
years after I left town
that it would be in his best interest
to replace the place
that nurtured me
before I turned into a man.
Had not someone told me
the place had vanished from the earth
I would not have known.
A thousand miles away
and years away from being home to me
I feel a strange sadness –
a loss so strange
I wonder why it holds my heart.
I remember clearly the first funeral
at which I offiated
in a country church.
I was a young pastof
I had all the “right stuff” to read in my hands
and the family I dealt with was grateful.
Three decades later
I left off being an official comforter.
I did reasonably well in that role
and look back on it with satisfaction.
In some ways I got close to death –
talked to many grieving people –
proclaimed matters about the afterlife
while leaving my own questions unanswered.
It is strange to consider all this now
as I close in, in a different way
on this reality.
About eighty years ago
a friend of mine called Bob
came to supper at our house.
He joined our family
around our dining room table.
My father served the food
that my mother had prepared.
When Bob’s plate was passed to him
he took a serious look at the asparagus
that was one of the offerings.
He said “What’s that?”
and my mother told him
and then suggested that he try it
since it was obvious
he’d never seen it before.
Well, he tried it –
one big bite of it.
He made an awful face
“Do I don’t like it!”
Ever since then
in my family
we often refer to our “Dis-likes”
with: “Do I don’t like it!”
In recent days
and even in recent years
I have applied Bob’s vernacular
to Old Age.
Trees of various heights
punctuate the horizon
with their finger tips.
Clouds swimming in the sky
slide behind them
playing hide-and-seek with my eyes.
Their shapes change a bit
when they are hiding
and when they become visible again
they are not the same.
The other day while joining a few others
for breakfast in a magnificent dining room
I saw through one of its large windows
the coming of the sun.
It was was announced by the clouds
colored in silver and gold and the blue –
clouds that had rested through the night
and were awaiting the morning’s sun light.
The sky was colored in such a way
that it took my breath away!
There were several diners there
dealing with scrambled eggs and bacon
and french toast and cereal.
I rose and pointed out to many imbibers
how beautiful was the morning.
No one seemed enthusiastic about the gift
in the east that colored this day’s beginning.
I was disappointed not to be joined in zeal
by my breakfast mates.
I felt very much alone
while listening to knives and forks
and an occasional voice.
Soon the display vanished
and only I had savored it.
If there is nothing on your mind
about the big cruel world —
where hurricanes and cyclones blow
and earthquakes shake —
or man reveals his capacity for violence
with guns ad knives and fists and avarice —
if you have freed yourself from such considerations
you might be susceptible to the weather.
And it easy to think about these things
when surrounded (almost) by tall glass windows.
It is windy today
and low gray clouds claim the sky
and the water in the bay is churning.
Sometimes the weather gets inside you
and makes you blue.
At least that’s how it is with me
when I see the weather
through the large windows
provided by our geriactric entrepreneures
who give us our homes – for a price
We, the fortunate ones, can see the sea –
can focus on the changing sky.
That is unless our aging bodies intrude
where we are doesn’t matter much.
I suspect that most of us
sometimes get into the place
where where we are
and even who we are
doesn’t matter much.