Galactic Maya

Glimpses into wider realities and observations during life on planet Earth

POPPY — Coming Home: Prologue

When I came home in the Summer of 1997, little did I know it would be the last time.
After struggling to remove my baggage from the trunk of the old Corsica, I lugged it up to the porch of the comfortable ranch style home that was home whenever I was confronting a life situation I did not like; usually it involved men.

Dad was sitting in his favorite chair watching a game show.  I surprised him with my clumsy entrance.  Jumping up to greet me, his eyes seached mine as he held me at arm’s length.  “Honey, what is it?”  His face transformed into a look of deep concern.
“I need to sit down, dad; I need some time–”
“To breathe?”, he replied.
“Yeah.   Anyway, can I have a glass of wine?”
He raised his own glass in response.  “Sure!   You can refill mine while you’re at it.”   With a boyish grin that set him apart, he added, “pleeese?”

Wine was served, and I plopped into the chair next to “Poppy.”  The grandchildren had given him that title years before.  Situated between us was a black and white checkered table with a tiffany lamp rising up from a clutter of assorted items framing the base.  Beside it stood a miniature gold elephant that served as the dimmer switch when touched.
Silently poised, I sipped my Chianti as I stared out through the patio door and into the lush landscape beyond.   Finally, the tension transformed into an unsettled calm.  “Why do I always get myself tangled up with possessive men?   People can’t own each other!” Poppy grinned.
“Honey, you’re free-spirited.” A characteristic defense posture welled up in me. “Free spirited, but what’s wrong with that?  Is there something wrong with a woman who listens to her own drummer?”
Poppy bolted straight up in his chair.  “Don’t start that now.”   His face softened.  “You are the love of my life; smart, independent, too.”   He leaned slowly back into that favorite stuffed chair of his, thought for a moment, then thrust himself back out.   “Do you remember all the ‘strays’ you used to bring home? The girl whose parents were divorcing; the boy every one laughed at because he was so skinny and wore braces.  You kept bringing these kids with broken wings home, hoping we could fix them.” My nose scrunched to accent a pouty mouth.  “Well, yes—but what does that have to do with me and men?”
“You still want to fix broken wings, Honey.”  Poppy’s face grew serious.  “In time, you will find the answer. But what are you planning to do now?   You can stay as long…”
“Nope.  Not staying, dad.  I just came back for a few days so I can figure out my next move. After all, now that Aaron is out of the picture, I need to regroup.”
“Ah, I don’t think he’s out of the picture at all.”   Poppy’s special grin appeared once more.  It so tickled me whenever I glimpsed it.
“It will work out. There are lessons there.”
“Don’t think so, Poppy, but thanks.”

Our conversation turned to the small tumor on his lung.  He had been cancer-free for four years until this latest recurrence.  The specialists’ didn’t appear too concerned, so neither were we. Poppy’s deep-brown, searching eyes lifted as we engaged ourselves on the latest developments.
“Nothing to it.   I’m told it’s just a small tumor; the treatments start right after Independence Day.”
As I scanned his face and body, it was difficult to believe he could be ill with anything. “Remember what you did just before your surgery back in ’93?   They wheeled you outside for some fresh air, and…”
“That was silly.”   Star twinkles now filled his eyes.
That was not silly!  You lit up that cigarette and the defiant look on your face was great!”
Well, I admit I was pretty cocky… but defiant?”  Poppy gazed into his wine glass.  “I guess.”
“You guess?”   Ha! That was unabashed defiance!  You smacked cynicism right in the face!”

Reminiscing on Poppy’s hospital stay meant that the memory of Mr. Maguire would inevitably come up.  Maguire and Poppy shared room 316 at St. Luke’s Hospital.  While we awaited Poppy’s scheduled appointment for surgery, I noticed the curtained partition between them start to wave briskly.   A weak, desperate voice behind the curtain began pleading for assistance.  Poppy pressed the nurse’s button just as I approached Maguire’s bedside.   Mr. Maguire was floundering, and it was apparent he had tried to reach the desk phone.   His thin hands reflected his emaciated state as they reached out to grab my arm.   Listening closely to his nearly incoherent voice, I understood he had been trying to call his wife.
There had been no response to the bell, so I went to the nurse’s station.

“The man in the room with my father needs help!  Can we get some help here, please?”
The nurse turned her back to me and piqued my anger.  “Is anyone going to help this man, or do I have to do it myself!
With that, the nurse turned and tilted her head toward an apparent physician seated peculiarly on a tiny stool.  I marched within his sight and insisted that he do something.  “Mr. Maguire is dying…” he said as he averted his eyes,  “and there is nothing that can be done at this point.”
The blood rose in my veins to meet the anger in my eyes.  “Mr. Maguire is trying to phone his wife!”
The physician stood.  “Look, it’s best if you just tend to your father and go…”
Before he could finish, I was already back in the room, holding Maguire’s hand until he fell into a light sleep.   When I returned from accompanying Poppy to the operating room, an orderly was changing Maguire’s bed.  In the brief time I was gone, Maguire had died.  How ironic it seemed that with all his years on earth collecting family and friends, the last person to touch him was a complete stranger.  This experience laid a mighty foundation for the events and choices that would come later for me.

It had been a long day.   As we contemplated sleep, we both found ourselves thinking of mom. We had not discussed her for years.  There were only remnants of her remaining in the home; a small needlepoint she’d made hanging on a far wall over the TV, her picture, placed discreetly on Poppy’s office desk in the den, an occasional nic-nac purchased on one of their many travels together.   For ten years, Poppy had refused to spotlight mom’s little treasures.   He’d even forgotten where he’d put the old 8mm movies.   But we felt her presence now.
“The girls have your old bedroom right now.”
“I can sleep on the couch.”
“But that’s not right.   You’re my daughter.  We need to work something out.”
“No!  I’m perfectly fine on the couch; it’s just not a problem, so—”
“It folds out to a bed, honey.”
“I’m not going to be here that long, so stop worrying!”
“I love you – you know that, don’t you?”

Those would be the last words Poppy would say to me without a struggle.  The next morning found me on the front porch sipping coffee, while chattering sparrows greeted the crisp, clear day.  I was in deep thought about where I would set out next.  Poppy interrupted my reverie when he gathered himself up behind me.  He spoke, but I did not hear him. He tapped my shoulder.  As I turned, he was pointing to his throat as he strained to tell me he’d lost his voice.

My response concealed my concern.  “Nonsense Poppy.   It’s just some sort of ‘bug.'”

As he bent down to hug me, my inner voice told me I might not be leaving anytime soon.

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Written by Galactic Maya

March 15, 2008 at 2:08 pm

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