Evading Parents - Poem by gershon hepner
However much we think we can evade
our parents when they’re vibrantly alive
we cannot do this when they start to fade
and down towards their death begin to dive,
for when they reach a certain, failing age
they have a greater impact on us than
they did when we were young, and so we rage
at aging shit because it hits the fan.
Before the end, when they become a wraith,
they seek the consolation they deserve from us
in memories, more powerful than faith,
but quite as complicated to discuss,
and draw us deep into their lives we understand
as little as we understand belief
in all the dogmas that they still demand
that we believe, providing no relief.
Inspired by Garrison Keillor’s NYT of Julian Barnes’s book “Nothing to Be Frightened Of” (“The Dying of the Light, ” NYT, October 6,2008) :
Thanatophobia is a fact in his life — he thinks about death daily and sometimes at night is “roared awake” and “pitched from sleep into darkness, panic and a vicious awareness that this is a rented world... awake, alone, utterly alone, beating pillow with fist and shouting ‘Oh no Oh No OH NO’ in an endless wail.” He dreams about being buried and “of being chased, surrounded, outnumbered, outgunned, of finding myself bulletless, held hostage, wrongly condemned to the firing squad, informed that there is even less time than I imagined. The usual stuff.” He imagines being trapped in an overturned ferry. Or locked by kidnappers in the trunk of a car that is then driven into a river. He imagines being taken underwater in the jaws of a crocodile. Beyond the big knock-down stuff, he dreads the diminution of energy, the drying-up of the wellspring, the fading of the light. “I look around at my many friendships, and can recognize that some of them are not so much friendships any more as memories of friendships.” He has seen his parents through their decline and deaths — “however much you escape your parents in life, they are likely to reclaim you in death” — his father, a teacher of French, felled by strokes, reading the “Mémoires” of Saint-Simon at the end still tyrannized by his wife “always present, nattering, organizing, fussing, controlling” — a few years later, his mother in a green dress, in a wheelchair paralyzed on one side, “admirably unflinching, and dismissive of what she saw as false ¬morale-boosting, ” and what he sees there is hardly comforting. Religious faith is not an option. “I had no faith to lose, ” he writes. “I was never baptized, never sent to Sunday school. I have never been to a normal church service in my life.... I am constantly going into churches, but for architectural reasons; and, more widely, to get a sense of what Englishness once was.”
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