The Unspeakable

Sam walked into the kitchen after lunch.
Helen was at the sink, attempting to clean up.
The faucet roared at full open; water splashing
and running everywhere.

"What the hell are you doing?"
He charged for the sink, roughly
lowered the water pressure, seized the swivel
faucet and violently moved it side to side to
rinse out the bottom of the sink.

"That's all you have to do," he said,
rage quavering in his voice.

She hadn't realized the faucet swiveled.
Head down, staring unfocused at the
bottom of the sink, her voice came hollow,
thin, defensive.

"You and I just don't get along."

Later that day she found an opportunity
to tell him he had always been a
disappointment to her.

She'd been visiting for three weeks.
The tension between them was an electric
palpable, heavy, permeating the air.

These two little exchanges capsulized
fifty-five years between mother and son.
It seemed the only feelings remaining between
then were mutual anger and resentment.
Each lived with the pain of that relationship.
Yet neither was able to talk about it, or
even, really, to acknowledge it.

All that needs saying between
them will remain unspeakable.

"Mom, I have always felt that you have
loved my brothers more. I am not the
person you wanted as a son. You are not my
ideal for a mother. Neither of us can
change. Neither should. I need appreciation
from you for who I am.

I have worked very hard to rebuild my
health and physical fitness. I need you to
acknowledge this while you
are criticizing me for my pony tail.

You have no appreciation for your own
life. It bothers me, all the whining and
complaining you do. I would like to see you
experience a little more joy in your life.
I'd like to see you feeling less lonely
I'd like us both to stop disappointing
one another."

Helen might say, "Sam, you're much
more intelligent and creative than anyone
has a right to be. Yet you treat me like
a stupid old woman. You always make me
feel denegrated.

"Would we be so angry and frustrated
with one another if we didn't matter to
to one another. We need more from one

"Yes, I've never totally adjusted to
your being gay, and, yet, I have worried
myself sick over the fact you have AIDS."

Sam and Helen will never bring
themselves to this kind of honesty
with themselves and each other. Time
is limited for them, as it is for everyone.
She is 88. He has AIDS. How sad they will
never use the time they have to work
toward an honest, respectful, loving dialogue.

He will never acknowledge, even to himself,
that she is his history, that he needs her,
that, in fact, he loves her.

Sbe will never be able to overcome
her negative feelings and do the
one thing she really wants to do--
embrace her son.

There is no guarantee that they
could ever totally heal, but
neither dares chance it. So,
they will go to their graves never
having got beyond it. Permanently
locking each other in their angry truce.


Is there a risk you could take today?
Is there someone you need to talk to?

by Phil

Smokey Joe's Poetry Corner

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Poem Copyright © 1998 Phil

Copyright © 1998 Timothy M. Radonich