Friday, February 26, 2016

#SOL16: Language

Toward the Light (M.A. Reilly, Massachusetts, 2014)


It's later in the evening. The bedside lamp shines soft against the blinds. Sometimes I can almost imagine that I am with Rob before the diagnosis, before the end was closing in. I watch as he angles one arm above his head and notice that he looks deep in thought. How many times have I seen that look?

And so I am surprised when he asks, "What language do you speak here?"

Or at least that's what I think he says. Partial lines, single words, sounds--these comprise his speech. And even when I understand the phrases, the context is often obscure, unknown.  The single exception is in times of high stress, such as when he feels pain. Then, Rob re-finds our common language. For example, a few days ago a nurse was finishing a procedure on Rob and it hurt him.

"Mary Ann!" he yelled. "Mary Ann."

I was so caught up in soothing him and hating that he had any pain that I failed to notice what Jack noticed. Rob was lucid, cogent. I realized he was right. Rob, Jack, the nurse, and I were engaged in a conversation.


A few hours later I watch as Rob takes the pencil-like sponge from my hand and uses it to simulate drawing a rectangle on the blanket that is covering him.

"Ten inches this way. Twelve inches that way. Ten more and another twelve. There. A screen. Now I can watch the game."

At a more cogent time, Rob told me to search for him at Star 50 after he dies. All of that day I thought about the language from Walt Whitman at the close of Song of Myself,
"...Failing to fetch me at first, keep encouraged,
Missing me one place, search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you."
Very early this morning, Rob looked up at me and said, "I'm so glad you found me."   I look at him now asleep, his breathing a mixture of rapid shallow breaths and breaths with pauses so large you could park a universe. My husband is composing worlds to help him leave the place he is forgetting to get to a place he must soon go to.  A place, where he will wait for me.


  1. Comes to mind one of my favorite Whitman poems:

    When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

    When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before
    When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and
    measure them,
    When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
    much applause in the lecture-room,
    How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
    Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

    For all of us a times comes to directly experience the stars -- from which we have come.

    1. Yes a beautiful poem, Bill. A favorite of ours too.

  2. So happy to have found are truly brilliant.

    1. Thank you Erica got all you said in your email. Appreciative to know what Rob was thinking.