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for the Ten Days

Madeleine Mysko

We say goodbye, her hand goes up (but not
in time to catch me), then the breach: I kiss
my mother on the cheek. Oops, I say,
you’d better wash your face. We laugh, of course–
that’s the better way to make it through
the chemotherapeutic calendar.
But it’s no joke. Her white cell count is low.
I see my mother back away from me.

I’m treacherous. I’ve not observed the Ten
Solemn Days

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House Call

Kendra Peterson

I approached my father in the yard of his most recent home, a small, run-down duplex shack. His hair was whiter than I remembered, his old blue sweater shaggy. He was clipping the hedge in his careless but enthusiastic way; when finished, it wouldn’t look good, but it would look clipped. 

One of his eyes was red

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Out of This World

Katelyn Mohrbacher

When I met Jasper, I was a third-year medical student doing a nine-month rural clerkship, and he was an eighty-year-old man in a coma.

Family members surrounded Jasper–a tall, broad-shouldered man–as he lay in the hospital bed. His wife, Esther, a petite, lively woman also in her eighties, stood by his head, grasping the bed rail. At the foot of the bed stood their son, a middle-aged man with a baseball cap on

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Genuine Touch

Jonathan Gotfried

I was a medical student doing my fourth-year rotation on the oncology floor. The floor offered many new sights, and from the first, I was struck by the two mammoth massage chairs sitting in a corner at the end of the longest corridor. 

Their exaggerated curves were plastered with jet-black faux leather adorned with stitching details. Long, smooth armrests

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Unresponsive

Addeane Caelleigh

Do the trees, like us, dream
of falling, falling into the earth’s flat embrace
or share the lilies’ dread of being ripped
from the dark earth,
ungrounded?

Maybe they are more like my friend Annie,
who dreams of being on stage naked
but unembarrassed,
continuing her favorite lecture
to the unseen watchers beyond the lights.

I hope

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Past Medical History

Donald Stewart

My career in medicine began when I was three years old.
Holding tightly to my father’s hand at the end of a dark hospital corridor, I couldn’t keep up with the heavy, sibilant stream of conversation flowing between Daddy and Dr. Mashburn, the man who had delivered me, who had sewn up my chin after I’d slipped in the bathtub a month before and who was now explaining the details of Mommy’s condition.

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Life, Preciously Poured

Kate Benham

You pour a cup of pecans
Like a kid catching raindrops
In a bucket.
Careful not to spill,
Your fingers playing tremolo on a 
Violin-string cup measure.

Your bed-tucked
Mouth, warm, with
Tongue searching the lips
For forgotten first lines of bedtime stories
Like misplaced glasses, resting on your head.
I read to you, now,
In hospital beds.

Forehead wrinkles stacked 
In three creases–
Your crossword face,
Mouth-chewed pencil between your lips,
Scooping

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Mom

Diane Guernsey

By this time next week, my mother may be dead.

In a sense, she’s been dying for a long time. This leg of her journey is the last in a decades-long trek with Parkinson’s disease.

She lies there, her head small and delicate on the pillow. Her hair is a wispy white thatch; her throat muscles are rigid, as if she’s just lifted a huge barbell. But her breaths come slowly,

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Maman

Paul Gross

At a recent religious service I attended with Maman, my 87-year-old mother, I watched her fumbling attempts to find hymn number 123, “Spirit of Life,” in the hymnal. I held my book up, opened to the appropriate page, so that we both could sing from it.

She glanced up momentarily, tightened her lips, hunched forward and resumed turning pages, finally arriving at the song when the congregation was singing the second verse,

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Giving Care

Ronna L. Edelstein

When I was six, my family and I spent a week in Atlantic City. I loved the Boardwalk with its saltwater-taffy aroma and colorful sights, but I feared the pier that jutted far out into the Atlantic. One moonless night, my big brother bet me a bag of taffy that I couldn’t walk to the pier’s end by myself. Never one to back down, I accepted his bet. But the farther out

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Mothers and Meaning

John G. Scott

“Dr. Scott, this is Dr. Font.” The call came from my mother’s cardiologist as I was about to see my first patient of the morning. “Your mother is worse. You’d better come as soon as you can. I don’t think she’ll survive the day.” Those blunt words shattered my denial: I had convinced myself that it was possible to fix the cumulative, lifelong damage wreaked on my mother’s heart by her atrial

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