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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Poem - Colleen


Colleen was the most unanticipated person in
my life. With no regular job and
no savings I was economically desperate. Having
given up on love years before, I
had no hope of finding someone I
didn't want to live without.

When she trained me for a summer
job I had no idea that by
the end of the season we would
love each other. I often just wanted
to watch her because she was so
graceful and deliberate. I came to love
her when I realized that she did
almost everything in her life with that
same deliberate style, dedication, and insight. We
promised each other at least 40 years;
today would have been seven.

It is easy to love a person
for her virtues; I can honestly say
I loved Colleen for her faults as
well. Our tv wasn't turned off for
years, she was so scared of the
dark. I felt like a failure when
I couldn't save her from the things
she feared; she was scared of bugs,
loud noises, fire, and old men. She
would get so anxious I just wanted
to comfort and hold her but that
only made her more upset.

Colleen never gave up on people. She
was friendly in the most stubborn way
possible. She greeted every person, every day.
If someone snubbed her, she made a
point of being friendly to them until
they cracked and opened up to her.
People I wouldn't have given a second
thought to, she saw the value in
being kind to. It wasn't a game
or a matter of pride; she knew
that everyone was worthy of a kind
word and a smile; those who can't
reciprocate need it even more.

I learned to appreciate travel because Colleen
loved to travel. She loved to drive,
to have that control. She loved to
speed with Mellencamp or The Stones at
full volume. We would both sing (scream)
along. The beat of the music encouraging
her to go faster. I always felt
safe with her at the wheel. After
an insignificant tiff, she almost left me
at a gas station in South Dakota.
Because she believed I would have been
better off without her; I am glad
she always waited for me.

Another virtue (or curse) was that Colleen
didn't mind hurting, suffering, and sacrificing. At
times holding her hands hurt her. My
love was honest unless it would hurt
someone else; I never knew how much
she hurt or for how long.

On a Saturday afternoon in May, the
doctors explained the situation: An infection (and
Colleen was always afraid of dying from
an infection) they couldn't adequately treat had
developed. Aren't I too young to make
this decision? Aren't I too young to
have to make it? Isn't the doctor
too young too know for sure? Well,
at least this one speaks English. "Will
treatment cause her more pain?"

"Yes, it will cause her more pain;
though it might prolong her life slightly.
She is too weak to respond well.
Colleen likely has brain damage."

Yes, you will have to push a
button every 15 minutes to help ease
her pain, you will have to tell
her it is okay "to go" then
lie to her and tell her you
will be okay, the last thing you
hear her say will be "oh, god
make it stop!", in a few days
you will have to hold her close
as her last breath is taken, you
will have to sit with her dead
body to wait for her lifelong friend
to come and say goodbye, you will
be haunted by all you have seen
here, you will often be alone now,
you will have to endure the "knowing"
glances of everyone who knows and the
"ignorant" remarks of those who don't, you
will sometimes find yourself wandering around your
900 square foot apartment looking for something
you can never find, you will die
some day too but you will be
far less afraid of death.

I still get up very early in
the morning; but, I don't have Colleen
to fret over so I nervously check
the windows "just one more time" before
I leave as if the cats or
dog might have opened them. I get
halfway to the car and rush back
to make sure I really did lock
the front door. At least, that is
the reason I tell myself.

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