It cut through the cool, quiet afternoon

with such intense clarity

that both the dogs and I stopped in our tracks

to look in the direction from where it came.

A woman’s voice




cried out from a big house

down a small street

at the edge of town.

I knew almost instantly

it was not a cry for help

because I had rattled my own walls very recently

with similar sounds

when news of my mother’s death reached me

and I was forced to face it alone

thousands of miles from what once was home.

Instinctively I wanted to move toward her sorrow

offer comfort

offer company

but I knew such new pain

needed to be tempered with solitude


time to process

and purge.

I looked up and down the streets

for someone


who might have heard her wails

and shared my heartache

as helpless witness

to such profound sadness.

But no one was about

just the dogs and me

and I suddenly felt intrusive

and newly stricken by my recent loss,

so on we moved

each step ushering its own fresh tears

coming stronger and stronger

as the sounds of her fierce despair

faded into the distance.

Her pain

is now entwined with mine

two unacquainted mourners

ever connected in our losses

in our sorrows.

Each time I pass her street

and recall her suffering

I feel her presence

(though a stranger to mine)

and am trusting time

has eased her pain

her tears

the grief.


The doctor’s last count was seven.

Each stroke leaving in its wake

a little less Dad.

Less motivation.

Less vision.

Less presence.

Then he lost his license.

So Dad just sat.

Eventually losing sight

of all that made him tick.

Gave him purpose.

He was good at.

I watched the frustration

when things weren’t clicking

in his once playful eyes,

in his quick and clever mind,

and quietly mourned

the lengthening shadow

that would smother such strong light;

turning weaknesses upon himself,

and others.

The shadow strengthened,

as the once powerful figure

could no longer focus.

Spent the days crying.

The nights wandering.

His underpants,


Conversations were now repetitions,

driven by a series of questions

he’d ask again and again

and again.

Always about family,

living and dead.

No steering away

from this endless thread.

But it’s all that remained

as he struggled for thoughts.

For words.

For himself.

The bygone body, swaggering and bold,

began to weaken,

and wither,

and fold

from all those years of sitting.

Doing hours and hours of nothing.

While cherished faces,

and times and places,

steadily stepped into the dark.

Rare became the instants

during my brief, long-distance visits,

when I saw that certain twinkle in his eyes.

When he was pleased,

about to be silly –

or incredibly Dad.

But then


it would pass

and entered this man, instead.

The only thing constant

was his wheezy, cartoon laughter

which he easily summoned

to the great relief of everyone

hovering uncomfortably in his small, sad room

scattered with pictures of loved ones –

now mostly strangers.

Rarest was hearing the voice of his past,

which sang in my ear

when he used my pet name.

Summoned forth in fugitive instants.

Clear and compelling.

Making me unexpectedly ache,

and anxious

to hear Dad speak again.

But Dad never did.

Yet in that flash,

in his strong, familiar voice,

he was my beacon,

my banker

my mentor,

my tormentor,

My father.

And everything felt right.

Then it didn’t.

And I cursed myself

for not plucking from the ether

that all-too-brief moment

to stuff deep within my pockets.

and help me remember

his long and strong hugs

of immeasurable comfort.

His powerful presence.

His stubborn dreaming.

His cocky, foolish, bridge-burning scheming.

The maestro of his successes

and Master of his failures.

But grateful for the moments

we spoke about nothing

and I apologized for everything.

Though he wouldn’t remember anything.

But love is in the giving.

In the times he heard,

I love you.

So, I told him different stories

about faraway lives,

and in between the questions

and his uncontrolled emotions,

I‘d try to fill the ether

with soon forgotten memories.

With love and laughter.

And strong hugs

of immeasurable comfort.