The First Sam Hazo at the Last

T
A minor brush with medicine
in eighty years was all
he’d known.
But this was different.
His right arm limp and slung,
his right leg dead to feeling
and response, he let me spoon him
chicken-broth.
Later he said
without self-pity that he’d like
to die.
I bluffed, “The doctors
think that therapy might help you
walk again.”
“They’re liars,
all of them,” he muttered.
Bedfast
was never how he hoped to go.
“In bed you think of everything,”
he whispered with a shrug, “you think
of all your life.”
I knew
he meant my mother.
Without her
he was never what he might have been,
and everyone who knew him knew it.
Nothing could take her place—
not the cars he loved to drive,
not the money he could earn at will,
not the roads he knew by heart
from Florida to Saranac, not the two
replacement wives who never
measured up.
Fed now by family
or strangers, carried to the john,
shaved and changed by hired help,
this independent man turned silent
at the end.
Only my wife
could reach him for his private needs.
What no one else could do
for him, he let her do.
She talked to him and held
his hand, the left.
She helped him
bless himself and prayed beside him
as my mother might have done.
“Darling” was his final word
for her.
Softly, in Arabic.

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