Week 276: Parents at Eighty, by Jack Winter

A very sad and moving piece, far removed from a Darby and Joan view of growing old together. I have to say it doesn’t really accord with the majority of my own observations: from what I’ve seen couples lucky enough to survive together into old age tend to experience, now that they are relieved of the stresses of child-rearing, a new serenity and a new closeness, perhaps founded on the realisation that now more than ever is the time to love that well which thou must leave ere long. But I am certainly prepared to believe that this may not always be the case.

Parents at Eighty

Who loved each other all this while
Have now begun to hate.
(Too late, my love, and you, my love,
Too late, my love, too late).

He cannot bear the way she walks.
She cannot watch him sit.
(As for you, you’re none of three
And want no share of it).

They draw me into corners
Beyond the prying other
To dish me grievance heaped on tale
Of mother, father, mother.

He will not wear his ear device.
She says what’s not worth hearing.
He snores. She slurs. Not his nor hers
Is illness feared, but fearing.

She dare not… can not… never has.
He would… some other mate.
She’s joyless… he, deprived his joy.
(Too late, my love, too late).

Had she but known the wage of care
For every day of woe,
She’d not have tended him, she’d not.
(My love, it’s time to go).

(And you and I move homeward
Down tunnels shaped like years.
My love, I’ll do your smile for you,
If you will do my tears).

Jack Winter


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