The gaps

I’m writing out my medical history
for Monday’s appointment
such a bureaucratic list of grievances
Is this what our lives look like
to doctors? A pillbox of
remission and relapse,
so much, so much blood?

These are barely the bones
of my life’s story.
All the important things
happened in between
colonoscopies
and cat-scans
prescriptions and
preventative screenings.

In these interims,
I moved to France,
fell in love
finished college
moved to France again
fell in love again
learned to lindy hop
brought my husband to America.

August 2007. Hospitalized 2 days.
I don’t remember what
the gastroenterologist said
or what the urologist said
I barely remember how sick I felt.

But I do remember
the opiate effects of sleeping pills
that I tried to fight so I could finish
watching Jon Stewart interview
Candidate Barack Obama.

I remember my boyfriend
(technically we were broken up—
technically he’s my husband now)
calling me from France on a cellphone
my mother held clandestinely to my ear
in the thin, moveable bed.
I wrote out a message in French for her
to email him word-for-word because
in the hospital they take away your cellphone,
apparently, like in prison.

And my father sitting in the corner
of the room by a small table,
as if at the tiny desk in a hotel
where he always looked so natural
writing travel poems early in the morning,
trying now, failing, not to appear worried.
“When your mother called me at work
and told me you were in the hospital,
it was like when they told me my brother was dead.
My first thought was:
who do I have to kill?”

Until then “in the hospital”
didn’t feel so serious to me.
I was relieved, grateful
to cede the tricky business
of getting out of bed and eating
to professionals. I didn’t have to pretend
to be healthy anymore.

My dad talked about Walter a lot
but never told me how he learned he’d died.
How did he find out? Was he at Berkeley?
Who made the call? (His mother, I assume,
but maybe not?). Who did my father
stop himself from killing?

This is what I remember.
Not the diagnoses, the prescriptions,
the IV, the recovery, the doctors.
I remember the startling ferocity
of my father’s love
powerless love
that changes nothing
yet mends everything.

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