Saying Goodbye at the Nursing Home

Jun 3, 2014

My meeting can’t wait
so I’ve kissed the top of your head,
both cheeks
and like the Eskimos do.

I’ve fussed
with your sheets,
squeezed your good hand,
put TV remote and urinal within reach.

Your orange is peeled,
wedges separated (the way Mom does it)
and laid out on a napkin
on your bed tray.

I’ve opened both curtains and window,
put Jerry Springer on full volume
(though I don’t approve),
taken trash and laundry.

I even lost a game of finger wrestling.
Finally, I tussle your hair,
make sure you are focused on my face
when I say, “Later, Gator.”

As I move toward the door
I feel like the parent
standing at the end of the driveway
on the first day of school.

The one removing training wheels,
watching as her child grows smaller
in the distance.
The one who will wait

by the window
as her teenager
drives away
for the very first time.

Now, almost through the door
and I want to turn around
and wave, keep waving

until it is time to visit again. 
Yet, I know if I turn,
I will trip
and fall

deep into the hole
waiting to consume me.

Elizabeth Thomas is a coach and organizer with Brave New Voices: International Youth Poetry Slam and Festival and the founder of UpWords Poetry.