night flights to london

17

On an August night in 2015, as I ate supper on the porch of the house I rented at the time, I glimpsed a white line above the sunset horizon. A tsunami of emotion swept through me and I began to cry. It was one of those chest-heaving, choking kinds of cries, the ones accompanied by lots of fat rolling tears.

I was reminded of the many summer evenings Mom and I had sat on the deck at the back of her big red brick house on the hill eating salad made with greens fresh from her garden. A steady stream of night flights to Europe invariably flew overhead as we dined. She always remarked on the planes, and when the dementia began to take hold each one of the dozen or so that crossed the twilight sky became the one to London, the one I would take when I left to go back to Dubai.

In the years before my 2011 return to Canada, I spoke with Mom almost daily on the phone. At the end of every call she would ask me when I was coming “home.”  If my visit was imminent, she would be ecstatic: “I can’t wait to see you!” Otherwise she would rue: “Oh. Not before then? I’d hoped it would be sooner…

When I saw the stream of vapour on that August night in 2015, I was flooded with sadness for all the times she must have looked to the sky when I wasn’t there, thought of me and prayed for my safe return. I imagined all the times, as the dementia progressed, that she was terrified to be alone in the big house by herself.

Eventually she got her wish, but not in the way she would have wanted or expected. After the tears abated, I wrote this poem:

night flights to london

by punkie

tonight as i ate
shrimp salad on rye
i noticed the streak
of a jet in the sky

i choked on a thought
and started to cry:
“life! leave me alone,
let sleeping dogs lie.”

i remembered the days
when we supped in the back
with the sun sinking low
until all had turned black

we drank and we laughed
and we had a good crack
“look punkie,” you’d say
as you gave me some flack:

“there’s the night flight
to london up in the sky
i wonder who’s on it
for what, whom and why?

i wish we could go there,
do you think we might try
to travel afar one day
you and i?”

“that would be fun mom”
i agreed in reply
while i sipped on fine wine
with a tear in my eye

“we’ll go in september,”
i told a white lie,
“your birthday is then
and a ticket i’ll buy.”

a moment passed close
then a lifetime, then two
as we sat in the dusk
with the deer and the dew

we pretended in silence
our dreams might come true
how else could we manage
to make our way through?

“look punk, it’s there!
look up in the sky —
the night flight to london
that goes on to dubai

i can’t help but miss you
when i see it on high,
why can’t you just stay
right here by my side?”

god granted your wish
though not how you thought
dementia delivered it
then left us to rot

but we turned the tables
and twisted the plot
to find healing and joy
in the battles we fought

now it’s just me
with chablis and blue sky
my appetite lost for
shrimp salad on rye

i weep at white tails
of night flights that fly
all headed for london
then on to dubai

 

August, 2015

 

© Susan Macaulay 2015. I invite you to share this link widely, but please do not reprint or reblog or copy and paste my poems into other social media without my permission. Thank you.

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17 Comments

  1. Pingback: still flying those night flights

  2. Susan, these words are so beautiful and so perfect. What a talent you have for spilling your emotions and experiences onto paper in a way that touches us so deeply. Sending (((hugs))) and prayers across the miles to you tonight.

    • Thanks Heidi.

      I choose this rhyming style to reflect the way Mom rhymes, and also in keeping with nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss.

      It seems right in awkward kind of way. To me it feels a bit disjointed, and that too is in keeping with this part of my life and this journey. I’m very pleased to have discovered poetry and to be able to use it as a release. It’s a godsend. Truly.

    • Thank you so much Rena.

      I really appreciate your support and sharing. It’s important that the community of caregivers worldwide creates a tidal wave of information and shared experience with respect to dementia so that we can take positive steps around this disease now and in the future.

  3. Susan,

    This touches my heart. I do not have your talent to express in writing my reflections that I feel about my mom’s horrid journey with dementia. (age 92, living with me) Your expression of days gone by, all lost to this disease are similar to my feelings….different setting etc, but the acheis the same.
    Thank you for your beautiful and truthful pieces.

    • Suzette,

      Thanks for your comments, which mean so much to me. Sometimes I wonder why I do what I do, write what I write, and share what I share.

      Comments like yours remind me 🙂 thank you.

  4. What a beautiful poem. You’ve struck quite a chord with this one Susan. It’s a very familiar scene and conversation, especially having just returned to Thailand after a visit home.

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