“NESTING,” a poem of life-long love between my parents Erwin and Ruth Thompson
Following a major stroke in 2001 up until the last few weeks before my mother's death in 2006, we were able to care for my mother at home. Many families would not have made this choice or had the resources to carry out this choice.
My father, supported by a strong family team, was my mother’s primary care-taker for roughly five years. I tell people that if there were a care-taking Olympics, that Pop would have won in his class.
Following my sister's death in 2004, I began commuting between Northern California and Southwestern Illinois where my family lives. One of the biggest benefits I received in spending so much time with my parents in the last 20 months of my mother's life was witnessing the closeness between my mother and father that is beyond words. . . and seeing my father as he carried out his marriage vows of “in sickness and health.” The poem “Nesting” shares some of their intimacy that I was privileged to witness:
by Janet Grace Riehl
(from Sightlines: A Poet's Diary)
to my parents’ bedroom is ajar.
I poke my head
around the door and peek in.
There they are,
not a peep out of them.
Cuddled in Mother’s hospital bed
he cradles her head under his armpit.
Pop grins his head off.
Mother looks like she died and went to heaven.
Not a bad way to go, when you think about it.
“Tuck your head under my wing
and go to sleep,” Mama used to cluck
when I was her baby chick.
Here they are, nestled together,
under each other’s wings.
Nesting, with no eggs to hatch.
(Note: You can read the talk I gave at the Second Reading Bookshop in Alton, Illinois, titled NESTING on my website that includes other poems and stories. My father was on hand to play and sing music and tell stories. The talk comforted us and linked us to mother. We went to visit her afterwards, two weeks before she died.)
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