NOTE: This post previously appeared on my blog, http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
It happened many years ago. We had just learned I was pregnant with our second son when I got a call from my mother, with the words no daughter wants to hear: It’s cancer. My mother had cancer of the colon. She
had had a sigmoidoscopy instead of a colonoscopy. The lesion was fairly high up in the colon, and the procedure had missed it. Hthen-doctor, not the brilliant diagnostician his dead partner, my mother’s former doctor, had been, had been slow to put together the symptoms. By the time he did, the cancer had spread to the liver. It was October, and by June she was dead.
At about the same time, I was offered some freelance work that would have brought in a significant amount of money, money we could have used. But I had a full-time job, a small son, a pregnancy, and a sick mother. I turned the work down, instead passing on the name of a friend — he later joked that I’d payed for the addition on his house. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Instead of spending my weekends working, I spent them traveling back and forth from Boston to New York.
Here is a poem inspired by this experience:
Mother’s Day, Margaret Fieland
the white-haired doctor
with smiling eyes,
to the quick-voiced young one,
who called your cramps indigestion.
Your hair became
sparse as grass during a dry August,
creaky as the old pasture gate,
your frame as thin
and brittle as the bare branches
of the old oak.
you lay in bed, smelling
of old guts, too weak
to lift your head.
You cam find it and other poems in the collection Lifelines.