My father wishes the stroke had killed him
the way it did his father and his brother.
He doesn't want to go on
being walked to the bathroom by a woman
whose job it is to keep him from falling.
My father who was the same age
for twenty years, the black more gray,
but other than that the body
he stepped back into every morning
was the same body that marched
across Europe, the one that went out
into the rain to get the car
while his family huddled under the awning.
Now I sit close to him, my arm
around his shoulder, something I never
did before, back when distance
was what I needed to keep
his life from spilling into mine.
My brother used anger,
but now his voice sometimes softens, falls open.
And the night we go out for drinks
after dropping our parents off at home,
I order something sweet and strong
and we talk about death.
We wander out into its moonless night,
stand in its dark field.
We are near enough to see how the end
might come, and willing
to look into the eyes of the animal
that will tear us apart.
I come close to telling my brother
I love him, something I have
never said before.
He likes to be the one
to wheel our dad in the chair
when we go out for dinner.
We are a family in our last years.
I hold my mother's hand.
My brother gets the door.
-- "The Gift That Arrives Broken" by Jacqueline Berger