The almighty



In my life
There were women who held dear
Who pulled and pushed and made me strong
Because their lives were hard
So difficult, they knew no other way

Estelle comes to mind
My grandmother
Who escaped the harshness of the old country
And found America
As a child,
She worked in the mills
Hour after hour
Dreaming of school
Her keen mind hungering for exercise
Longing for a world she could never reach
Finally she gave in to her God
After ninety three years
Her brain stopped its treadmill
Of worries and despair and regrets
Gave way to the foggy past
And disappeared into the heavens.

My mother
Devoured science fiction
Rejected any notion of the past
She clung to a dream of a world
Where fathers and sons
Would never take their own lives
Where daughters were encouraged
To go to college
It was a vision unattainable to Joyce
So in the end
Her brain snapped
All function ceased
And the fierce intelligence that was my mother
Vanished overnight, poof, in its sixty third year
The stars in the heavens still suffer
From the loss.

There were others
Those who could taste joy
And the beauty of the world

Claire, sweet Claire
My mother-in-law
Who sewed and knitted and baked
And sang and played her piano
And rode her bicycle and gardened
Always smiling
Living the small moments of the day
The world was jealous
Of such an exquisite flower
Some angry god or another
Got to her first
Shriveled her brain slowly
Time by time by endless time
Ravaged her senses
But eventually
Finally, mercifully
Our childlike, almost virginal beauty
Was allowed to meet her true maker.

And now, as if this wasn’t enough
As if my grandmother and mother and mother-in-law
As if Estelle and Joyce and Claire
Were nothing to eternity
My daughter Laura
Gets her brains bashed in
By someone deranged or high
Looking for cash for his next fix
Skull cracked open
And Laura loses grey matter
But oh so luckily
The gods show compassion
Perhaps it was not her time
And somehow, she lives.

But not my lovely Lorna
Future mother and friend
To her adoring community
Joy bringer
Bearer of happiness and loyalty and practicality
Sixty years of marriage and children
And kale soup
Though her kind, gentle hands were weak
Her mind was clear and expressive
Until the other sudden day
When she lost her words
Her brain would not be contained
Finally, love was all that remained
All thought stopped
So today
Lorna gave in to the need for her final sleep
And though it came too soon
Who can ever blame her for choosing loving rest?

And me?
I suppose I will follow these women
Whose lives and deaths
Speak to the almighty power of the brain
To give and to receive
To mercifully allow
To cruelly take
To live, to die

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