All I had to do was…

help him from his hospital bed

to his portable toilet

in the middle of the living room

that was all I had to do


he was wearing briefs.

All I had to do was…

pull them down,

that was all I had to do


he was my Pa,

my Dad,

the only man I ever loved.

All I had to do…

with my sixteen year-old body was,

brace him with my shoulder,

pull down his briefs


I didn’t know how,

I couldn’t look him in the face.

All I had to do was…

set him down


I didn’t

until the second time we tried

his face in panic.

All I have to do is…

remember if I got them down,

did he feel relief,

did I forget to be his granddaughter,

his daughter,

his baby girl

and help him one last time,

his last time out of bed

the last time we stood and leaned into each other.


For Kathleen – you are so much in my thoughts lately.

I wrote this nearly fifteen years after it happened. It’s strange the way memory, guilt and longing stays with you. It ebbs and flows but ultimately settles to a place where you can at least find some peace.


2 Responses to “Memory”

  1. There are still times some twenty years later in which I feel the hoplessness of those final days.
    I called my father’s doctor and told him that his breathing was quick and shallow; that my brothers and I had decided it would be best for our Mother that he not pass away in their house. After the ambulance drove away with no siren I hoped that I had made the right call. I followed him to the hospital and sat with him for a while. Late that night before he died I rushed to their house and tore down the hospital bed that stood in their living room. I tried to wipe away everything that would remind me of those last few horrible weeks. I tried to vacume away all that sickness and dispare. It was during that madness that the phone rang; it was my Mother’s friend Ruby telling me he was gone. I drove back to the hospital and he lay there; his skin was blotched blue and white. All that anguish and I had missed him leaving.
    He told me he would be waiting for me on the other side; I can’t imagine being greeted by anyone else.

  2. Kathleen Says:

    Michelle, thank you so much for sharing this. I am really touched that you thought of me. It made me cry, but I mean that as a compliment. You capture the pain and loss so perfectly.

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