and for the third time my grandfather grabs the bottle of sparkling cider
and for the third time it is empty and for the third time his face falls
of all the things to forget this is not the saddest
he forgets how the trees are laid out in the woods behind his house,
forgets whether he took his pills in the morning, forgets to protect
my grandmother in the dark of the night
when he wakes to declare that the whole room stinks, it stinks so bad,
it stinks and he has to sleep elsewhere he tells my grandmother who clings
to him and begs stay with me, stay with me so i don’t grow cold
One autumn morning, a woman called the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Cohen Children's Medical Center on Long Island, asking to speak with me.
In more than ten years as the department's director, I've received countless phone calls, but this one instantly got my attention.
"She says that she was your patient in 1984," said my assistant, Eileen. "Her name is Anne--"
"Jones," I said instantly.
"You don't remember her, do you?" Eileen exclaimed.
"I certainly do," I said. "The hospital opened this unit on Valentine's Day, 1984, and she was the first child admitted. How could I ever forget?"
This is a story of two deaths. That these patients' stories intersected on the same morning, in the same building, in two adjacent rooms, has left me thinking about them now that the day is almost done.
I was surprised to see Mrs. Stevens' name on my schedule today. She came to the office last week, and I felt sure that she'd be too weak for another visit. But I was glad she'd made it, as I've become quite fond of her.
She's seventy, and dying of metastatic lung cancer. She's a lifelong smoker, but at this point I'm not worried about cause and effect, accountability and responsibility. None of that changes what I must do now as her physician.