Mornings

The moment I stir, there is a little black nose an inch from mine. Two loud sniffs determine if I am still alive, then the thud of two rescues leaping from the bed to the floor. The hurryup prebarking huffs begin the minute my own feet touch the floorboards. The countdown to fullscale arfing begins as I throw on many layers of clothes and race to the bathroom, which signals a dangerous escalation to yelping. The frenzied barking intensifies as I fumble the leashes and unlock the slider. The door opens. Squirrel! They bolt. I stumble after them, finally awake.

Role Models

I found this picture of my Aunt Elena and Uncle Benny and had it blown up. Now it sits opposite our bed in a space where the light filters through. Appropriate, because Ellie and Benny always felt luminous to me, the love they had for each other an endless spring of joy and jokes and all the good things in life. I studied them without knowing I was taking this basic course on Love 101. After being married to Chris for over 38 years, I am glad I matriculated. I learned from them about mutual respect, the importance of the goal of laughing every day until you lost your breath, how to grieve together. Thank you, beloveds.

Ellie & Benny, newlyweds

and, just as importantly, forty or so years later, still on the journey together, note where Ellie has her hand:

Dragon Slayer

Jesse Lanier Cooper – October 15-January 3, 2005

Jesse’s favorite Greek myth was Perseus and Andromeda. He loved heroes, warriors, dragon slayers. A life-size cutout of Xena, Warrior Princess stood in the corner of his room. Some understood that his broken body contained a warrior soul. After Jesse died, his best friend dreamed that he came to him as a warrior. After death, Perseus and Andromeda became constellations. But I don’t look to the stars for Jesse. I read the annual report of the Jesse fund at the MA Federation for Children with Special Needs that has slain the dragons of educational obstruction for over three hundred families of kids with disabilities, and see my warrior boy.

Photograph

The photograph is sepia-toned as if it should be displayed in a fusty old museum. But there is a golden, honeylike aura, too. My son, his head thrown back, laughing, looks up at my mother, who goes deep with him; she has known wordlessness. Together, they are sibylline, trading secrets. Uncle Joe, hands in his pockets like a middle schooler, smiles awkwardly. My niece, nine, looks down at my son in his wheelchair like a sleepwalking girl who sees a vision of her future as a warrior mother who will someday know a savage love for her own boy.

Christmas Poem

By

Jesse Cooper

My

Chair

Bumps 

Through

The woods

As we look for

The perfect tree

We leave a piece of 

Silver for the wood sprites

The decorations are in storage

We dust off all the ornaments

Dad spends an entire day stringing

Together popcorn and cranberries

I’m happy to have Dad home this Christmas

The tree’s spine is crooked like mine and Mom’s

Stan’s homemade ornaments are placed on the tree

They hang on the branches like rings on fingers

Colored lights beat out white lights this year

This is our Charlie Brown Blue Spruce Christmas Tree

THIRTY-FOUR

I don’t think of the first fraught birth day, two-and-a half months early, the icy fear, the grim pronouncements. Now I remember sunny still-warm October days on our deck, my son surrounded by cousins and friends, laughter and cake, the marsh in hues of gold. I want to find the multiverse where this day exists and reside there forever.  

Jesse at eight. You are 34 tomorrow somewhere in the multiverse.

I Fall

I’m two years old and wailing, facing the camera in the black and white photo. Underneath the white curlicue edge, my Uncle Joe has written “I fall.” My fear of heights is deep-seated and so visceral it probably goes back to a life before this one, the result of a misstep on a cliff road or a sacrificial hurling into a fiery pit. In this life, it will be another’s fall from a tall building, the man that jumps from a window of the Hotel Warwick on Sixth Avenue that will cause me to go into labor after I walk through his scrambled brains. I deliver my son ten weeks early, like the fulfillment of an ancient, unfathomable decree.