Enduring Guardianship

Sue Ogle

I was cool on the way to the lawyer, we’d talked it all through, no problem.

So why am I remembering the old kauri house where the wiring was dodgy
and I held my breath as she flicked the switch to turn off the power? How can
I do it without her, flick off the switch of life, decide on her fate or my own,
without consultation, alone? What if she goes and I’m inconsolable? 
What if she stays and doesn’t know me? 

And why am I seeing Durdle Door, that day when the Sea Scouts came upon us;
we were naked, swimming alone, so we thought. Why am I feeling the sting
of the storm on Mt. Aspiring as she yanked me up the ravine? 
Why am I watching the furious river trash those filthy trail bikes? 
We laughed and cheered; we thought our laughter would never end. 

I was cool on the way to the lawyer, we’d talked it all through, no problem.

So why am I hearing the birds in the flax at breakfast time? 
Who will speak to the sparrows for me, find out who’s courting who? 
Who will converse with the cows, compliment them on their new calves? 
Who will call to the hawk as he hovers in flight or mopoke the owl 
late at night? Not me, you see I’m city, she’s country to the core.

And why am I tasting the spray on our farm by the sea? Who will natter to the
neighbors? Who will croon over crabs creeping sideways or worship 
the worms in the soil? Who will head off the terrier coming straight towards us?
Who will gentle the pony for me? Who will gentle my feral heart, 
coax me out of my burrow, interpret nature, my nature for me?

I’m not cool on the way home from the lawyer, so we talk it all through, again.

About the poet: 

Sue Ogle is a geriatrician at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, Australia, and associate professor of medicine at Sydney Medical School, where she uses fiction as a tool in teaching medical students. She writes both poetry and stories and is currently completing a masters of medical humanities.

About the poem:

“The poem concerns a close friend whose short-memory is slipping. It details the thoughts and feelings of the day we went to see the solicitor about signing the documents for me to obtain enduring power of attorney and enduring guardianship. For years I’ve seen patients with cognitive impairment and blithely advised the setting up of enduring guardianship. Although I’d understood that this is a contentious issue for the patient, I hadn’t appreciated the conflicted feelings it can evoke in their loved ones. This transaction is a patient’s formal acknowledgment that reliance on a mother or husband can no longer be expected; it’s also a caregiver’s acceptance of responsibility, which often means a reversal of roles. Our own identity, informed by the thoughts, feelings and memories we share with loved ones, is also threatened.”

Poetry editors:

Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro

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