And it was the early spring the late winter–1987. Not too late after David’s birthday. When Bethany entered hospice. She died Easter weekend. In Sabine County Hospital. After Dulcy took her in on emergency one last time to prolong her life. David was not there.

an ailing mother an ailing ex-wife this world this life bigger than you and me and in that final moment that final breath we see it as a dream a memory given to us none of it really happened even though we felt it we lived it so that our sins can’t be cast aside in mere words nor can our salvation–it can’t be it can’t be as easy as that–our last rites…

And no. It weren’t no song and dance. It was no book pretending to be read. My love was real just as was my hate. He’s gone on gone on home on up that river to where he was born to where his mother is dying. He’s gone on to answer that question–who will be the king of last suppers? We’ve traded in the smell of honeysuckle to the antiseptic odors of palliative care. We’ve gone on from that ardent youth that hunger to share to the despair of needed help. No the end does not come as a thief in the night but in that long slow decay from the standing and walking ’til a time when you can’t get up no more ’till the bed sores of pain. And if I could write this I would. If I could say it I don’t know who I would speak it to. Dulcy is my only living child. She never did give up on it. Nor did he in his own way. Like love is some possessive quality. As if once you’ve had it it is always yours always was yours and no others…

Take it I says
she sees my lips move but can’t hear what I’m saying
Momma it’s yours It can’t be mine
it was tied to a belt underneath my skirt a charm only carried by women
Benjy had the doll and then Solomon–this don’t have no ring inside. Nor Spanish moss.
You take this I says
it was the woman who told me a story and not the woman who gave me birth she gave it to me the day I waited… a particular kind of mojo hand
She said it would keep him faithful and true. You put what you want inside a it. I done took out mine I says Put in your own men’s concernin’s…

No sin ain’t conjured up by no mere words. Funny to think salvation can if we but confess our sins… I ain’t never had great expectations. Because it ain’t possible. It ain’t possible to love someone you know too well–and I knew him well. I remember that day just as it was yesterday. New love destroying old how but if I could have the New Orleans of my youth!

it will be the birth of your children that will kill you. his seed your poison. and love what makes the tumor grow–the new life inside you…

And Dulcy says:

I just wanted to sleep. That last day that last night. They cut out most of the right side of her neck. The lymph nodes. Cartilage. Part of her voice box. It was the pregnancies–doctors say it was vascular. Only observable in a certain profile and easily covered by her hair. She just ignored it for many years. Ignored it as it grew. Never telling my daddy never telling David… I sat with her in those last days. My daddy went home for his momma’s funeral. Her last words written. The handwriting almost indecipherable but not the tears in her eyes the pain in them–three words written twice. Like she was writing them for herself and someone else:

Am I forgiven?
Am I forgiven?

Then her eyes became like glass and she slept. She slept for two days and two nights. And on the third day she awoke for a moment. She looked at me like I was a stranger. She looked at me with love. Her breathing became faint. Longer pauses in between. And it was like I knew for I was half asleep beside her. I awoke to hear it to hear her last breath. Her eyes were closed but her mouth was open.

It was like she was singing.

32

You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown
You can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown
Lord i’m standin’ at the crossroad, babe, i believe i’m sinkin’ down
–Robert Johnson

Your life is your life. It ain’t mine it’s yours. Mine ain’t yours it’s mine. And you know what–I wouldn’t want it any other way…

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