Nifty Fifty
Grief is an unexpected child,
helpless, needy, hungry,
desperate for my care,
dying without my attention.
Come from nowhere, left on a doorstep,
in a basket, dropped by a stork.
A baby all day in my arms,
keeping us fully awake nights,
whether I take her to bed with me
or put her on the other end of the house
in the dark, behind a closed door.
The unpredictable crying overwhelms us both.
There are tears, sleeplessness, guilt,
anger, frustration, but mostly
the early parenting fog
that disconnects you from the living.

What am I supposed to do with this thing?
The books don’t really help, and
those who have come before nod and cluck
and tell me: “you’ll figure it out.”
I speak to God and feel the answer:
“Keeping her alive is your most basic job,
keeping her healthy is better.
The more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
What kind of parent do YOU want to be?”
In time, of course, there is a routine
The baby smiles…says MAMA
I feel proud of this child, affectionate even,
and proud of myself for getting this far.
Soon, she starts to eat and grow.
I can hardly keep track of the changes.
Somedays nothing, we can barely leave bed,
but more and more: independence!
Then there is the day I take her to school,
and stop thinking about her till afternoon.
She starts to have a mind of her own,
wants to walk the bridge by herself.
A teenager emerges eventually/suddenly.
The thing parents dread: smells and hair and emotions.
And yet, it’s good. We’ve come this far together,
I remember my job isn’t to make you cling,
but to gently push you toward the door.
And then when that day comes, will I be ready?
To release you back to where once you came?
A child only lent to me to raise…
This grief, always entwined with my heart,
but not meant to live in my house forever.
When I think of that, I yearn for connections
Once she leaves, will she visit from time to time?
I’d be heartbroken if she didn’t.
We’ve become one with the effort.
I’ve put so much into you…don’t go too far, please.
This is a passport photo of myself and my mother circa 1972. (We were on our way to Guatemala for a couple of years.)
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Nifty Fifty