The Waiting Days

Yesterday David and I went again to Uncle Ed’s house and saw again the empty chair that he sat in all day long and struggled so to rise from, crippled as he was with the bad hips even before you got to the arthritis and the gout.

As David studied his box of crucial documents, I just stood, looking at everything:

His many photos.

His water glass there by the chair.

His cane that he would so lightly toss to me before he slowly, painstaking lifted those burdened legs, one and then the other to fold himself into my car.

We picked up his paper and fetched in his mail.

We took his address book and pulled the door shut and left the dust motes swirling minutely in the air.

The ancient Jews in the day after their deliverance: I keep thinking of them.

“Now what?” I keep thinking, just as they must have thought, dazed by the empty space all around them.

“Now what?” I keep saying to myself, as the followers of Jesus must have also said the day after his execution, when it turned out he hadn’t thrown over his captors and come off the cross swinging at all but had died like all the others – of strangulation, they say, when the method is crucifixion; when the victim grows so weak he can no longer push off with the feet and the pressure on the pectoral muscles cuts off the airway.

Dark thoughts in these waiting days.

I roused myself finally and called the newspaper to cancel his subscription. I called ElderCare and stopped the service that would pick up his laundry Tuesdays and return it Fridays, so clean it made your nostrils sting to sniff it.

I called the two ladies who had sent him Easter cards, one signed in such a spidery hand she must have been in her 90s too.

I spoke to his faraway blood nephews. I worked out a date and time for the service, so we could get the one great minister from the church his near nephews grew up in. (Ed was their uncle really, the uncle by marriage of David and his three brothers.) I wrote the obit in which I did not name myself.

We drove straight north from his house to be at a place that calms me every time. We will go home in the morning for church and then it will be Easter and maybe I’ll feel a little better.

For now I feel like the speaker in this poem, W.S. Merwin’s “How It Happens.” Though he has written it with no punctuation, it’s easy to tell it’s a dialogue. Maybe he wrote it without punctuation to suggest that this conversation is an inner one. I know the inner conversation is mainly what I’m having right now. Read this piece of bleak beauty by our poet laureate now.

The sky said I am watching
to see what you
can make out of nothing
I was looking up and I said
I thought you
were supposed to be doing that
the sky said many
are clinging to that
I am giving you a chance
I was looking up and I said
I am the only chance I have
then the sky did not answer
and here we are
with our names for the days
the vast days that do not listen to us