today she misplaced
©Robyn Hood Black
Frogpond Vol. 42:1 (Winter 2019)
& selected for a forthcoming anthology TBA
I wrote this poem after a Thanksgiving visit with my mother-in-law, Marjorie, when she was in the hospital. Her struggles with Parkinson's had been mounting and coming fast after living with the disease for many years. Even in the midst of overwhelming challenges, however, humor can be a balm - and she kept her quick wit.
The wonderful nurse working this past Thanksgiving engaged Marge in conversation.
"Who is that?" she asked, pointing to my husband, Jeff, at Marge's bedside.
"That's Tim," Marge said.
"No, Mom, that's your favorite son," my husband smiled. "I'm Jeff."
The nurse nodded toward me, sitting in a chair at the foot of the bed. "And what is her name?"
Marge took a long look at me and then told the nurse, "Oh - she changes hers a lot."
I almost fell off of said chair, chuckling at such a clever quip.
Marge did recall our names on some subsequent visits and calls - the mind is a tricky thing. And while we all knew her health was declining, her passing last week still felt like a shock. She left her husband of 62 years, Reuben, five children, thirteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Tim, an Episcopal priest, officiated at her service on Saturday. All of the music and readings and remembrances were offered by her grandchildren - as she would have wanted it. Our nephew Will planned the music and played piano, with our son Seth playing guitar and singing along with another cousin, Olivia. Our daughter Morgan read a passage from Job.
Marge and Reuben had started "GranCamp" more than 25 years ago, a special, themed week each summer just for cousins (and, much later, their spouses). Potty training was the only requirement. That rule even got bent when great-grands came along. The goal was to create strong bonds between all these cousins, and as the oldest, Ben, said from the platform on Saturday, "It worked." (A few years ago, Will directed a Gran Camp video, complete with their original, jaunty GranCamp Song which was sung at Marge's service.)
Marge was valedictorian of her high school class and earned an education degree at North Georgia College. She was active in church and community endeavors. She and Reuben had an open door, always - hosting several international students over the years as well as anybody who ever needed a safe harbor with a warm bed, good coffee, and no judgment. Oh, and ice cream any time of day or night.
Her generosity and her quirks were celebrated with much joy on Saturday. It was a remembrance with as much laughter as tears. She loved to read, and she could remember many lines of favorite poems. The ones that just about every family member could quote - from her sharing them so often - reflected her philosphy about the preciousness of children. She frequently shared these excerpted lines by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton (1921-2018):
From "Song for a Fifth Child (Babies Don't Keep)"
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!
Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby. Babies don't keep.
Click here for the entire poem, and a lovely bit of biography about the poet.
Here is a link to Marge's obituary, largely written by Will. Marge's other daughter-in-law, Patricia, and I tussled a bit with last minute edits. But that was okay - we just wanted the words to be right, words that can only capture glimpses of a bright life.
I found the obituary for Ruth Hulburt Hamilton here, which also includes a copy of her famous poem.
Thanks for the kind words and thoughts this past week, and thanks to our oh-so-talented Jone, who has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Check it Out - Enjoy. (& I'll see you HERE for the Roundup next week!)