On that day in 1961 I had no idea he already was on
his way to that "undiscovered country from whose
bourn no traveler returns."*
He lay in that hospital bed fragile and so human
I feared to touch him.
Like Waterford crystal he'd become brittle, as life
slowly emptied from his glass.
Had I not found a way to love him enough to
attenuate our relationship, to give us time . . .
Always I had striven to please him, to draw forth
his smile, mischievous with twinkling eyes.
So many images tumbled through my mind,
images of moments -- those that always made me smile.
Dad dozing off in the middle of mass; or when driving
in warm weather, his side window open, his bare arm
resting on the frame, as sunlight shone through
curly red hair emphasizing the mass of freckles;
or how his eyes sparkled with some inner mischief
when he spoke; or his ever-present Camels -- in the
pack with the camel around back a single palm tree
next to a single palm tree next to a pool of water,
a desert oasis; sometimes the pack would be replaced
by a silver lighter that he could twirl through the
fingers of one hand -- around and around.
On this day I longed for those long-ago days, me very
little, and he would pick me up in two very strong
immutable arms, "Time for bed young lady." And
up the stairs he would bear me. In those days
I was afraid of the dark; now I knew those gremlins
to be real; they'd escaped and were swarming into
the bright sun of midday to pull away whole chunks
of my life, careless, they were pulling arms
once strong, now listless, dimming eyes once bright
closing a heart once so full of love.

Judith Hartberg, August 26, 2018
"Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1

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