Friday, December 10, 2010

Just enough to tell


This past Monday, one of our elder neighbors was removed from life-support. The doctors had placed him on assisted breathing since he fell suddenly ill in the days after he had run his car into the creek that runs below the hilltop rancho.

After being released from an overnight stay at the hospital, I'd seen him pass my deck in the late afternoon walking after his Jack Russell terrier, Spencer, who was perennially after critters. He seemed fine and I had been surprised to see him up and about only a day after after learning of the circumstances surrounding his impaired foray into the creek.

Thus, our landlady informed us Monday morning that after two weeks on life-support he would be removed from the machines that have kept him alive. It was scheduled to take place at three o'clock that afternoon.

Five hours.

From the time she told us until they would do it. As per his DNR directive, his pre-written wishes and instructions. It would allow for family to arrive and make their final visit if they wished to.

Frank expired at 8:20pm on Monday night.


I began the piece below at precisely three o'clock on Monday and finished it about fifteen minutes later. I then went out to my car to run some errands. As I did so, a single quail flushed and furied from a bush to my right. I stopped and tracked it into the low bushes down the hill.

Then a small low movement from my left caught my attention—a lone small rabbit emerging from behind one of the parked cars. It sat there and regarded me for several minutes as I stood and augured the not too subtle signs. Some call them omens—inexplicable coincidences that make themselves known in some auspicious way.

These things happen.

When my friend and caregiving client, Alfredo, died in January 2008, a single blue heron had come to land in the meadow next to the rancho. It stayed all that morning and into the afternoon in spite of a lingering rain. It briefly returned the next day as well. It seemed to me then as if he was communicating, by some natural coincidence, that everything was alright.

I did not know much at all about Frank as he lived down the road on the property, but not in the main house where I rent a small studio. We spoke rarely, but waved hello to one another once or twice a week as he would drive down the hill everyday with Spencer standing lookout at the passenger window. Our lives simply did not cross or trespass the seeming boundaries that came to be in place.

I've learned more about him in the days he's been in the hospital than I ever knew before. Ex-military, estranged wife and children, loner, and at seventy, far too young for all of this to come to such a sudden finality.

Strange how such things happen.

So, given the small augury of the animals that made their presence known to me after writing the poem below, I now share this, as I should, because some greater purpose may well be served in doing so.

It is, I suppose, a very human thing to do.


Last Hour
For Frank

In the last hour, I might walk past
your window. You may look up to
see the last of me, some shape not
too surprising, just enough to tell
you it was me. I’ll be looking for
the dog, the wiry little Russell you
never cared much for because he
wasn’t the heeling type, always
after rabbits and quail, something
to root through the bushes for.

You will look up at your clock
at precisely three when they’ve
agreed to disconnect apparatuses,
the trappings of continuance, let
me ferret on my own. It won’t
last long, we already know that.
In this last hour glass will glint
late autumn sun as the sea will
catch and throw it back in small
crests of distant waves. For some
days you will remember me.

Each time you pass the curve
where I ran off into the creek,
you will remember and venture
to imagine how it might have
happened—me sniped by drink
and meds and age and few and
fewer reasons to go on this way—
there where the oak trees droop
above dried mud tracks that rain
has now worn down where the
tow truck pulled the car out after
the EMT’s had already taken me.

In the last hour and the hour after,
I might walk past your window.
You may look up to see the last
of me, some shape quite surprising,
a small rabbit, perhaps, or last in a
string of scurrying quail, just enough
to tell you it was me, it was me.

Joseph Gallo
December 6, 2010



Blogger Kyle parried...

You've done a beautiful thing here, Joseph. Very compassionate, tender. Thank you for sharing it.

December 12, 2010 10:22 AM  
Blogger Joseph Gallo parried...

Thanks for reading, Kyle. Somehow, it seems these things are left to we poets to figure out and/or fail in the attempt. ;-)

Your comment is muchly appreciated. :-)

December 14, 2010 2:27 PM  
Anonymous aharamanx parried...

Ah, Joseph, your poet's heart has once again paid tribute to the life within us all by so honouring this man. How is it that poets always come to see the periphery with such clarity and descriptive eloquence? We touch one another in ways that precious few come to truly appreciate amidst the haste. Thank you for arranging such a lovely bouquet to linger by and to refect upon. xxooxx

December 15, 2010 11:56 PM  
Blogger Joseph Gallo parried...

I suppose as we get older we begin to mortalize our time, more and more. That is, we look at the architecture of what being here and alive is all about as we make our way through a house given only so many rooms to wander before we're evicted or are foreclosed upon.

Of course, I've been stretching that metaphor my whole life as I've been aware of the brevity of this adventure from early on. I don't know why.

Some have suggested that "old souls" do this, so, in the absence of any other plausible theory, this hypothetical suffices.

And for some reason remembrance holds a great importance for me not so much in being remembered as it is to remember others.

Thank you for your heartfelt comments, Ms. Manx, and I appreciate your thoughts on this post. :-)

December 16, 2010 2:51 PM  

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