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Papery Hand

From writings about helping my father as he completes his life.

I kiss his dry cheek this morning, hold his papery hand. The vinegar smell, the smell that always worries me, the scent of something fermenting, turning, is gone. Today he smells clean and strong despite his bones rising up to the skin. I stroke their smooth contours trying not to hurt him, trying not to drag the delicate silk mottled with purple patches and umber spots too far from where it has draped for nearly a century, at first pale and juicy and fatty and stretched taut, growing and sloughing, then fitting neatly for years and years, a glove over muscles and fascia, before this loose garment.

He feels electric to me. He vibrates, his being awake and reconfiguring as we sit together on the bed edge, he tracing the pattern on his plaid pant leg at the knee again and again, the lines cross hatching, appearing to him as a map of where, in his inner consciousness, he will be traveling. He is learning the route. Memorizing it. Because when the time comes to leave the body, he will leap into a mammoth space and go fast fast fast far far far. I am sure he will have help. I have promised to go with him as far as they’ll let me. And they will be there when he wants to reach for them. But he may want or need to fly alone for a while.


oak leafHe was always so good with directions. We could stand in the middle of a corn field and he would get us back to that country dirt road where the dusty car sat, it’s windows rolled down. He was never lost, as if he had a compass in his sternum. I know he will fly on the open field beyond this planet. No roads, just open land, no matter how different or unusual. He will welcome that. And when he is tired and needs to complete the journey out of his body’s final sheer shape, a containment of so many years—measurement that means nothing once he leaves Earth—they, and It, will be there to surround him. This is my myth for him. I will never know if I am right. No one will ever know.

I hold his papery hand and think how wonderful it is that we make up stories to cuddle this passage because ‘nothing’ and ‘infinity’ and ‘never again’ are so unwieldy in our grippy little emotional hearts.



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    1. So beautiful….

      November 10, 2013
    2. The way you put the feelings and observations into words is such beautiful poetry and bring back so many memories of sitting with very special people in much the same way as you are now. Such a rewarding (and yet sometimes painful) experience. My love and thoughts are with you.

      November 10, 2013
    3. karleen #

      You say the unsayable………living through this long good bye………..

      November 10, 2013
    4. Thank you, dear friends, for being with me in this slow garden of flowers blooming and blooming and blooming…

      November 11, 2013

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