NDJ:6 Gina Sangster, LICSW

Untimely Losses

Did she smoke secretly or drink more than the social cocktail at
the end of a busy day, the glass of carefully selected red wine
she’d enjoy with her second husband over a quiet dinner in
their new home

Did he quit exercising the prescribed minimum
three times per week for thirty minutes
and revert to the home-cooking of his
Tennessee youth, knowing it was wrong
inhaling his paunch in the bedroom mirror
before sliding into one of his customary pressed
shirts, looped with an understated but distinguished tie
His wife of nearly thirty years loved him anyway
and his two children came home from their disparate worlds
calling him Daddy

Maybe the transgressions of her youth in the unhinged early
sixties, one of the prettiest Jewish girls on campus, came back
to haunt, like her dead son’s spirit only accusatory, demanding
recompense for what we thought was a free ride

Or he wasn’t the thoughtful father, devoted husband,
upstanding member of the community but someone else

whose life could end too soon with no great loss to the world if there is such a soul not worth saving It must have been something the rest of us can point to, something to explain his going shy of 60, the sudden stroke taking her away from the abundant blended family gathered around her like a wild and colorful garden tended by a gardener of unbridled imagination

We vow to follow doctor’s orders, take Lipitor, pass up the bacon and glistening little link sausages in their steaming trays at the church retreat. We’ll become vegetarians, never forget our vitamins, practice safe sex, get to the gym, some of us might even start to pray

Dear God, keep us safe
Help us understand why a woman whose smile greeted us just the other day is gone, why her grandchildren must find a way to keep her close without the sound of her voice

Dear God, help us to accept
the children in their twenties who come home now where their mother lives alone, their father’s beautiful pin-striped suits still hanging in the closet above his neat rack of shined sensible shoes, the life lessons he taught echoing in the silent hallways

If we lean down close and listen
we can hear the Southern lilt of his voice, her throaty laugh,
even the words they might say
It isn’t easy to live
with the eternal footman waiting in the wings,
counting our days, ushering those we love
out a side door before we’ve had time to say goodbye,
before we’re ready to let them go or face our own
certain going