Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Future (im)Perfect Tense


Sterile. Some may describe it that way but no matter how much chemical you put on it, the smell of decay is there. 

They all smell the same. Human, in all of its scent textures, past and future.

"I don't look like much. I won't sit in this bed with curlers in my hair that is just tacky."

A man shuffles down the hall, captured for a moment in the doorway. The tennis balls on the legs of his walker are bright green, as if they are fresh out of the can, never having the chance to see the court. Baggy white hospital pants and a blue flannel robe,  big eyes behind thick glasses. He looks in, looks back, moves on.

My extended family rings the room, in chairs, on counters, in the floor on the cold tile. I stand against a wall. Holding it up.

"Is he male?"

She is talking about me, in the midst of a conversation with my cousin on Vegas. He reaches over grabbing a handful of keys in my pocket, jangling them, out of sight where she can't turn far enough in her bed to see.

"Yep mammaw, he has all his parts," he replies.

Family laughs, but she is serious. As serious as a few minutes later when she rants about the atheist ruining Christmas, making us all take our trees down on Christmas day. Or when she says its been 25 years since she last had sex or when she looks at the family portrait we gave her for Christmas and wants to know where we were going hunting.

The fall. The breaking. The pain. The medication. These are things we can blame for this addled-ness. And the laughter, perhaps to hide the sadness, of marbles rolling haphazardly across the floor.

My youngest tugs my hand toward the door, wanting to leave. Me, just to breathe.

They all smell the same. 

Human.

Poetry Jam ~ Theme Thursday

The title is a play on this song by Sweet Billy Pilgrim

72 comments:

Rachel said...

don't think i've ever been first on one of your posts before. the way you compose, the way you paint...is it effortless, or does it just seem that way? because you make me feel every last stroke as if it were the beat of my own heart.

elegant.

Ostensible Truth said...

love how layered this is - you build it up from the very first line - "Sterile. Some may describe it that way but no matter how much chemical you put on it, the smell of decay is there." and it all builds from there around great descriptions! great write!

JANU said...

Very touching.

Mary said...

This is sad, Brian. I've spent time in such places, and this poem tugs at my heart. So hard for your son to see. So hard for you. The end of life (even if we pray it isn't yet) is seldom easy.

hedgewitch said...

Gah. Difficult difficult stuff, I think because we all can see the possibility of our own future imperfection in these sad moments.You bring as always, the humanity to empathize as well as fear it. Fine poem, brian.

Daniel said...

Kind of a melancholy slice today. Not fun to see someone you care about in pain or failing. Hang in there and do what you can.

kaykuala said...

Brian,
The future can be influenced up to a point for we are all human.The future with its imperfections has to be faced with courage.

Hank

kaykuala said...

Brian,
The future can be influenced up to a point for we are all human.The future with its imperfections has to be faced with courage.

Hank

CiCi said...

My mom is in a place like that now. Put away but not forgotten.

Valerie said...

The question Rachel asked I ask as well.

This was so descriptive I felt sad. But your Grandma will be home in a few months... God willing.

Claudia said...

*swallows hard*... this took me back to when i was visiting my dad in hospital...so long ago but this scent..it's still in my nose and memories and everywhere - hope she's soon getting better bri - must've been hard for your son as well

Pat Hatt said...

All human indeed
A definite difficult setting today at your feed
None really want to be there
No matter how much they care
Kids just have less of a complication about showing they want to go
What is left to do, is pretty much sit and smile as stated by you

Laurie Kolp said...

"I stand against a wall. Holding it up." I love the many layers in this, Brian. I've been in the same situation with my grandmother. It's tough, I know. Just remember you can let someone else hold up the wall, too.

"And the laughter, perhaps to hide the sadness, of marbles rolling haphazardly across the floor." WOW!

Mama Zen said...

"to hide the sadness, of marbles rolling haphazardly across the floor."

Exquisite writing, Brian.

Nikki Rules said...

Ugh. Touching words my friend!

Steve E said...

Brian, you the KING on my monitor. The most delicate truths you treat with courageous words. Smells, private thoughts, laughter, sadness, all in mere moments of a visitation.

Mammaw's skeltered thoughts, rants, memories become words created by your talents, conveying to me the reader wher I and all must arrive one day.

Not easy to NOT fall--painful arthritis combined with loss of sense of balance make it happen. And from there...well, I hope I can still use my computer when that time becomes my reality. I'll put a little yellow tennis-ball-handle on the lid. Thank you SO much, man!

Fred said...

Another excellent piece Brian. You really build the scene so well and the feelings really shine through- you're a master at capturing emotion, both your own, those you know and a real good feel for what you see in others, but the trick, which you do so, so well, is being able to transfer this to the page, so the reader can feel along. Great write. Thanks

Birdie said...

the picture is so wonderfully chosen for this touching post Brian! ps: if i don't 'see' you, a very happy new year and all the best! to you and your family Brian!!!

JeannetteLS said...

well. Everyone has said it all, perhaps better than I'd be able to. This grabbed my heart and squeezed it. And I saw my mother, in her last days, as I gently took a spoon from her hand. She was trying to feed her forehead. Her eyes were newborn blank. And in that short entry, it all flooded back. My first "read" as I return to our blog-world.

Brian, you almost always do that to me. Squeeze my heart. What more can anyone ask of writing?

Fireblossom said...

Wow, this is described so vividly.

Sheila Moore said...

I am so sorry. I knew exactly where you were by the third sentence because I worked in nursing homes for 15 years as an OT. I love the elderly, their quirks and all (whether disease or medication induced - heck, with some of them it was just the personality they were born with.)

But to see a loved one change into someone so different than how she used to be will def take your breath away. Hang in there, bri. it's a normal part of the process after such an injury and with such a change in her routine and environment as well. once she heals and gets back home things will look better, hopefully.

Katherine said...
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Katherine said...
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Katherine said...

Hello Brian, I've not been by in a while and the first time I pop in to visit you I leave with tears in my eyes & a lump in my throat for you and yours. There is absolutley no doubt in my mind that a persons eyes are the windows to their soul and heart, they are intrinsically linked. Through your eyes and then captured in your words you have shared the heaviness of this time in your own life. It's a difficult chapter of life to endure and my thoughts & prayers are with you and your family. Let your pen (or keyboard in your case) be your sword Brian. Your mother may not be who she once was at this time but you have the gift within your words. Remember & write!! Warm hugs from across the planet ... Kath (Big Hug)

(Sorry I had to delete 2 times...kept making mistakes)

Lady Nyo said...

How much heartfelt and this communicates to readers that 'common' history of most of humanity.

Brian, you get better and better.

Lady Nyo

AmyLK said...

I love seeing your life through your poetry. Its kinda scary how little it takes to addle minds, young or old.

Merry Christmas, Brian

Victoria said...

Oh, Brian, you nailed it. And having nursed in this environment before, I can validate that. I'm so sorry she fractured her hip. Rarely does an older person emerge from that experience at 100% of what they were. The pain, the anesthesia, the meds, the change of environment: so many thing just gang up on them and alter quality of life. My dad didn't survive it. Many don't. Here's hoping that when she returns home, things will be better.

emmett wheatfall said...

I always wondered where that smell came from...humans...now I know. It was you, a poet who solved the mystery. A very nice write too--given my virgin ears. lol!

Bernie said...

I could see the room the old man and his walker at the door and the old lady lying in pain, smell the oldness of their existence, scary as I am heading in their direction actually we all are. As usual I love your writing.....:-)Hugd

Margie said...

So sad but still a wonderful write!
I always love how you share your life through your writings!
Thank you, Brian.

Barbara Shallue said...

This makes me sad for reasons I won't explain. But I've been there before and will be there again sooner than I'd like. Very touching post, Brian.

KB said...

A real tear jerker.

Janet said...

This piece is so vivid...the sounds, smells, the air...very touching and well written.

Christine said...

the test of true humanity, visiting the old and in-firmed, terrific write

adeeyoyo said...

Hope your gran is improving, Brian. I could imaging myself being there. Loved the marbles rolling around on the floor - such an apt description! Bless you all...

Kodjo Deynoo. said...

Wow, no holding back then, but then with everyone reality is painted in this piece, in what we feel in what we hide and they all smell the same..

Helen said...

I echo what others have left for you in comments ... it's fascinating how we come to 'know' the bloggers we read. Little peeks repeated week after week until we have a collective vision of their essence. We are lucky to know you.

Helen said...

PS...I enjoyed the British band too.

oceangirl said...

This is excellent, really Brian, better is your constant to anything that is already excellent. I really loved and was touched by the ending.

myheartslovesongs said...

you had me at the title, Brian!

this is a sad, sad song that i remember too well the last few years of my mother's life. and that smell....

thank you for sharing at Poetry Jam.
dani ♥

ladyfi said...

Oh gosh - how heart-breaking. So sorry.

nerima roberts said...

Brian I read your post with a lump in my throat....My own mom is battling advanced cancer, and she just might win. But now her bones are so frail. I worry she will fall and hurt herself.
I've worked in enough nursing homes to know that it's not good. And the smell there is the same wherever you go.
You are awesome Brian. I'm glad to get back into blogging.

Dave King said...

Superbly written. I love the way in that you found, and, yes - several have mentioned it already but it deserves repetition - the layering. It stirs up the memories with its truthfulness.

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell said...

Lots of memories of me visiting the in-laws in a home, and it's tough on so many levels. :(

Kitty Moore said...

This is currently my favourite of all your pieces...please write a book.

RD said...

knowing a scene and writing a moment...

with many angles ....your approach is passionately polite...
noticing
relating
admitting

sincere awareness....I have walked such halls and seen the hollow sockets

very, very well done

Peace

Daydreamertoo said...

Awww... I've been right there at these times. It's all heart breaking to see and to feel and to be a part of. You've captured the essence of it all here so well. I got so that I could smell that smell even after I'd showered and laundered all my clothes.
Raw and real write Brian, life towards its ending.

Mrsupole said...

One can never forget that scent after one smells it. I think I will take the human smell of babies after taking a bath, there is no better smell and it does help to forget the other smell.

I do hope she gets well very quickly and gets to come home and this memory passes by quickly.

Thanks for playing in this weeks Future Theme Thursday.

God bless.

ayala said...

A brilliant capture, Brian. I have been there and I have felt the heartbreak and today I feel yours.

Grace said...

"They all smell the same. " Yes, the smell of decay and dying little by little. I know the smell too.

Very lovely writing ~

Lorraine said...

It is easier to die than to live...and I mean that in a spiritual way

cosmos cami said...

well written

Lolamouse said...

This poem touches all the senses. It's not a comfortable poem but then it's not meant to be. I hadn't heard of this band before and gave them a listen. I like them-thanks!

colleen said...

I feel bad for the unused tennis ball and love the line about you holding up the wall. I have been there and you paint it well. Do you have long hair?

Tara Miller said...

It is hard - but the laughing and enjoying togetherness helps the time pass and makes her feel special and loved.

Hope said...

your way with words is touching. thoughtful and emotional piece.

Hope you and your family have a blessed New Year, Brian!

Peggy said...

This really pulled me in. As others have said, I like the layers, your choice of tight wording. Excellent depiction of a difficult scene.

manicddaily said...

Pretty awful. (Good writing, but so painful.) K.

happygirl said...

The smell of us humans is an acquired scent. and rehab centers are the worst of it. bless your grandma and your family at this Christmas time. :)

Leovi said...

Yes, despite the hand of man life will go on ...

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

Hi! Brian...
I have been MIA...Therefore,I'm somewhat "lost," [See: Brian archives]but your writing is still just as powerful, very descriptive, very vivid, and this story is a very sad, yet a very "human" story.

This is your story, but I'm afraid that we all will probably have to experience at some point or time in our lives.[When it comes to our love ones, family or friends health issues.]

Thanks, for sharing your "Perfect Tense."
deedee :-(

Ruthiey said...

Feel this one, especially because of my work. It's hard to see people losing themselves and the people they love.

TALON said...

Yes, we can't escape our human-ness from beginning to end...

Karen said...

Ah your words, your story invoked that familiar tightness in my chest. I've spent a little time in the places where older humans are kept.

It never gets easier.

Amazing post this week!

Happy TT and Happy New Year!

artbyrae said...

I think you use the best combination of words. I have been there holding up the wall and thinking and wanting to leave but knowing it was me that had to stay and be the wall for others. My Dad fell and never got to move back to be with my mom so.....there was so much time to think about being human.

Rae

Sue said...

So sad for all of you, Brian.
And so hoping things get better for your grandma.

Lisa Golden said...

I was right there with you. That's truly powerful writing.

Whosyergurl said...

You captured it.
Just like you always do.

You walk out of there and the smell goes with you. You shower, you change, it is still there. In your nose, in your head.
Happy New Year, man.
Cheryl

lori said...

Nothing easy about this at all :( Sometimes the laughter helps soothe, but the undercurrent of sadness is always palpable. Sorry.

Taylor Boomer said...

A sad moment vividly captured.
Life is incomplete without these, we have to take it.

Happy New Year.
have fun regardless where you are.

Margaret said...

Me, just to breathe.

I felt that, the feeling of being trapped. Wow. It wrenches my heart.

Syd said...

I think that when I visit nursing homes I see myself there at some point and wonder who will visit, will I even know who they are. Very sad indeed. And the smell is of oldness and decay.