I originally had an entirely different, fall-themed post planned for today, but it seems I’m unable to wrest my thoughts from memories of my mother-in-law, Lois, who died seven years ago this month at the well-seasoned age of 87. Seems an odd thing to be focused on considering everything else that’s going on, especially as ours was a decidedly prickly relationship—she, a stickler for all forms of social etiquette while I’ve forever rebelled against them, often for no reason other than a lifelong need to go against the grain. But the mind goes where the mind goes, and so here we are.
Lois was many things: an avid and accomplished sailor, president of numerous southern Maine garden clubs, and an award-winning flower designer in the ancient school of Ikenobo Ikebana—an esoteric Japanese art form she demonstrated and taught all over the world. She was also known for enormous, themed dinner parties and could mix a mean martini. But there was another talent she had quietly mastered unbeknownst to family and friends. The lady, it appeared, could write.
I’d never have known this about her if I hadn’t stumbled across a box of her things some months after her death, among them a short, “self-published” pamphlet of her poetry—written, it appeared, just after my father-in-law succumbed to his final illness a few years earlier. Titled Good Grief—My Journey Into Widowhood, it demonstrates the subtle, poignant beauty of her writing, and pulls the breath from me to this day. I share some of it below. Enjoy.
The shelter called him Lawrence.
To us he was “Kitty” or “Tom C.”
Cat-like, he napped everywhere.
Mostly cat-like, he took our bed.
On the last day, he sat lion-like on the foot of that bed.
He watched all day while his master breathed hard.
Tom-C did not nap.
Tom-C did not move.
After the last breath, Tom-C got down.
Tom-C went to the kitchen and ate.
IT’S BEEN A WEEK
Just ditched the flowers,
Except the lilies—the buds opened.
Back in their routines.
After all, life goes on.
I have no routine. Writing notes to say thanks.
Thanks for what?
Comments are all the obvious.
“Sympathy, condolences, prayers. Sorry, thinking of you.”
Nothing new or different.
He was the different one.
The ocean makes waves.
It finds its peak and collapses.
Grief makes waves.
Emotion takes over.
You think you can’t stand it.
Then, just as when the tide goes out
Calm comes. But not enough to wave goodbye.
ROUND THE BUOYS
An excellent start. Over the line with the gun.
Going to windward, the helm feels balanced.
Perfectly trimmed jib. Tell-tales streaming parallel.
Wind gusts and a knock down puff put us on the rail and parallel.
Careful not to pinch, we tack on a lift.
We are early rounding the buoy.
The reaching leg is a delight.
The boat planes and we relax a bit.
We are in this together.
The wind changes and we almost lose it.
Control is everything.
We argue about the course.
All thoughts of “parallel” flee.
The tide helps us around the buoy and we jibe the boat.
Downwind is where we lose the lead. We pop the spinnaker.
Working as a team again.
The wind brings the fleet upon us.
We are overtaken.
We do not win that one.
But…what a race!
What a life! Together!
Why Lois never shared her writing with anyone remains a mystery. I only wish I’d taken the time to know her better—just one of the many regrets I have about our relationship. The grief, it appears, is not only hers.
Darcy Scott (Winner, 2019 National Indie Excellence Award; Best Mystery, 2013 Indie Book Awards; Silver Award, 2013 Readers Favorite Book Awards; Bronze Prize, 2013 IPPY Awards) is a live-aboard sailor and experienced ocean cruiser with more than 20,000 blue water miles under her belt. For all her wandering, her summer home and favorite cruising grounds remain along the coast of Maine—the history and rugged beauty of its sparsely populated out-islands serving as inspiration for much of her fiction, including her popular Maine-based Island Mystery Series. Her debut novel, Hunter Huntress, was published in Britain in 2010.
This is beautiful and very moving.
Thanks for the poems but more for the reminder to know people before it’s too late.
How lovely to find such a parting gift.
She didn’t share because it was personal. All the societal norms stuff is just cover for keeping the reality at bay. Stiff upper lip, convention, politically correct. Knowing what is expected makes lots of people feel safe.
I, on the other hand, always questioned the conventional wisdom. Because it is always done this way held no weight with me. If there wasn’t a good reason, such as safety, don’t expect an obedient disciple. My feeling is that’s why those of us who question are met with such anger and even hate.
I’m so glad that you discovered her writings. It’s a window into the person she was deep down.
Dear Darcy, thank you so very much for this poem. I’m very grateful for this.