O father! I see a gleaming light,
Oh say, what may it be?”
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.
In Ma’s dialect, corpse became a very earnest “caawpse” and I had to suppress my delighted laughter or she would not continue to my favorite part:
Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
On his fixed and glassy eyes.
I loved the lantern. I loved the snow. I loved the odd repetition of “gleamed” and “gleaming” and I loved death’s glassy stare.
I woke this morning and decided to wear a ring my mother gave me when I was a teenager, a ring I have not worn in years. Later at my writing workshop, I stared at a pattern on a plate. A Chinese man looked down from an open window to a garden where two women seemed to be gossiping. A road disappeared into the red porcelain distance. I thought of patterned tea pots and plates and keepsake boxes patterned with gardens, swings, and scenes of muted romance. I thought of a thousand thrift stores and yard sales and auctions, of my mother’s difficult life and her simple joys. I indulged in pre-emptive grieving as if it could shave off a fraction of future dread. I thought of her hands and how every time I see her at the nursing home in Peterborough, New Hampshire, I slip some kind of ring on her finger, a ring with a cloudy green stone or plain silver.
In her confusion, my mother cannot always remember who is alive and who is dead. She can’t write her name. But she can still solve difficult crossword puzzles if you read her the clues. I bet she could remember nearly all of Longfellow’s poem. I remember once she recited it during a power failure on a Christmas night. The falling snow outside seemed to match the snow in the poem. The shadowy candle-lit room felt as cavernous as a ship. I don’t remember how far my mother had gone into the journey of the Hesperus, to the “cruel rocks” or the “bleak sea beach,” only how startled I felt when the lights came on, how lost.
sad, and very moving…
Thank you–so glad you liked it!
Somewhat sad but serene.. I’d say more of the “serene memories”, we could never control life that’s how it is but we can always have that moment of chance to choose to be grateful.
>>>I love your writing style
Yes—serene is an interesting word—some memories do have that calm feeling when we’re recalling them, they seem to unfold that way in the act of remembering. Thanks for reading…
Very touching. A pleasure to read.
So glad you liked it….
I was quite touched with your story. Somehow it made me realize that I should appreciate my mother everytime I get the chance. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.
Wow–that’s a wonderful effect for a piece of writing to have! Thank you
wonderful – so glad you were freshly pressed so I found this 🙂
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph–I can’t visit again because of the sharks but nice writing.
Because of this blog post I went and read the original poem. It was tragically beautiful. Thank you 🙂
This is fascinating. Great message
Thanks for this. I am also a dear friend of my mothers, and knowing she is in her last days, I feel your love.
Thanks Claire! I love that you wrote that you are “a dear friend” of your mother’s. I have often thought of myself as a friend of my mother’s especially when I got older and could see her as a human being, not just a mother.
We are the lucky ones!
So poignant. Such a different relationship than I have with my mother. A glimpse of all the joy, and the pain. Makes me miss what I never had. Thank you.