Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the category “Family”

Family (Repost)

I remember visiting my cousin in the hospital (first person is him, last verse) but didn’t realize until looking at the date of the post that it was 5 years ago. Unfortunately, he died last week, the warning(s) not heeded.

Family
A family
may have
its own unique warning
to save one
from what nature or nurture
combined to produce.

Ours was simple:
If you drink,
you die.

My uncle
was justifiably
marked as Cain,
but all that he shattered
was tidily
swept away.

My aunt found herself
in a position
impossible to
escape,
and
her gentle spirit
was no match
for the bottles
strategically placed.

My brother was wild
as the wind
with a temper
that knew no end
or solace.

Who would
have imagined
as she rose to the top
that the punches
thrown at my cousin
would have finally
knocked her out?

I lie now
my body
like a beached
whale,
my face jaundiced,
but my red eyes
still show their
cunning.

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A Life

A Life
Days you never knew.
The farm they grew up on.
The dust and hazy summer afternoons.
The bridge you crossed
and on a New Year’s Eve
slid across.
The planes that now land and take off.
There is so much you didn’t know.
You think about this all
as you read about
a life you hardly knew.

A Precarious Existence

A Precarious Existence
The absence
I feel
is similar in kind
to when
you left your family
behind
for the jungles
where you lived
a precarious
existence.

“Put me down.”

Every year I return home to see my mom.

After a severe stroke three years ago, which had been preceded by a number of TIAs (mini-strokes) over the years beginning in the 1980s, she’s been declining steadily.  We were fortunate to get her driving license away from her about a year back before she’d killed anyone.  The truth be told it was her doctor who was responsible, and everyone who tells how easy it is is talking about someone else’s parent. Last November we got her into a wonderful assisted living facility where despite no longer being able to converse as she had and largely being fixated on three things (money, going out to eat, my room is a cage) she had a certain quality of life.

During the first week of my visit a month ago things went relatively well although I’ll be the first one to admit my mom has never been an easy person to deal with and age combined with cognitive impairment has not helped in this regard.  There was much for me to complain about and complain I did to friends and relatives and whoever was ready for an earful.  The next few days were as pleasant as they have ever been – we went out to eat at a great Italian place with a cousin and aunt, and she even went to the casino (She loves her slots.).  Then Wednesday mid-morning when I was about to go to her place for lunch, I got word she’d had a massive stroke.   The doctors did not think she’d survive. We were forced to put her into a nursing home and into the Rapid Terminal Decline program.

But she has since rebounded.  Her health care directive made it clear that she did not want to be in a nursing home (see title for a direct quote) and considered quality of life to be of the utmost importance.  We are constantly being pushed for therapy, which my sister and I are resisting to the very fiber of our being.

I was reminded of the wonderful film, The Sea Inside.

The First Thing We Do

The First Thing We Do
Jack would do
anything
for anyone
you were told.

So you waited
in his lobby
interested to hear
what information
he might provide.

From a plaque on the wall
a Bible verse stated
obedience to God
would bring about good governance.

A painting of Washington
kneeling on the banks
of the Delaware
hung.

As for your mother,
she’d already crossed
the Rubicon.

Jack’s secretary,
who’d earlier
said
her father, too,
was suffering from
dementia
and had expressed such
understanding,
told you coldly,
“He can’t see you.”

No jot and tittle
means sympathy’s
in short supply.

Sketch 8: Descent

This particular poem deals with an image from my grandmother’s funeral. I’ve always thought smell to be my most acute sense so it’s not surprising that incense should be an important part of my memory. A single smell can easily transport me back in time.

My grandmother was Catholic, and Catholicism was very important to her generation, defining them in a way it never did me. But then again, I lived in different times – a Catholic would soon become president of the United States, and it had been a long time since No Irish Need Apply signs were seen. When I visited relatives in Ireland, and they took me to the rubble that remained of my grandmother’s house, they also brought me to a landmark where Catholics used to secretly meet to worship when the religion had been outlawed. I was asked, “How would your parents feel if you married a Protestant?”

Although titles for me are more often than not a necessary evil, I do like this one and the double meaning of descent.

Being the Youngest 1

“The neighbors’ house needs painting. You’re such a good little worker. Here’s a can of paint. Surprise them!”

Family

Family
A family
may have
its own unique warning
to save one
from what nature or nurture
combined to produce.

Ours was simple:
If you drink,
you die.

My uncle
was justifiably
marked as Cain,
but all that he shattered
was tidily
swept away.

My aunt found herself
in a position
impossible to
escape,
and
her gentle spirit
was no match
for the bottles
strategically placed.

My brother was wild
as the wind
with a temper
that knew no end
or solace.

Who would
have imagined
as she rose to the top
that the punches
thrown at my cousin
would have finally
knocked her out?

I lie now
my body
like a beached
whale,
my face jaundiced,
but my red eyes
still show their
cunning.

Vive la France! Vive la République!

America never was America to me. Bear this in mind as you read. Ideals may not always be realized, but few would choose to live in a world where they did not exist.

My paternal grandfather died when my dad was young so he grew up on the farm where his mother had been raised. The Great Depression had just begun, and they were fortunate to have land that gave them all they needed at a time in which so many had so very little. Since my grandmother worked, he was looked after by his French Canadian grandparents.

French was spoken, and on the balcony during the summer, it was sung. My father had a French first name, and the meals served were traditional Quebec cuisine.

His grandfather must have been an important role model for him so it’s easy to understand why it was with such sadness that he told me the story of his death.  Among the many people who came to pay final respects was a French Métis, who worked for him as a handyman. Once he had left, my great-grandfather asked for water to cleanse his hands. He felt defiled.

It’s hard to say how instrumental this experience was in shaping my father’s perceptions of the world. I do know I was fortunate never to have heard a racist comment from him, which was decidedly different from the wider environment where I heard people routinely categorized in ways in which I’m sure you are all too familiar.

As he grew he was fascinated with the French Revolution, whose ideals he admired – before, of course, it started eating its children.  And, of course, as a  young man there was France and the battle in Europe against Nazism.

The only memory I have of him crying is when he heard La Marseillaise.

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