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Author Name: FreeDrJojo 13 Comments
Date Added: January 06, 2008 17:01:27 Average Score: (Needs 2)
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Her Patti Paige Voice

                                             

       I remember when she wasn’t sick, when her eyes still laughed, when she would burst out in song while hanging laundry or stirring spaghetti sauce at the stove.

     “How much is that doggie in the window, arf arf.”  The last part sent me into giggles when she squeaked,  “arf arf.”  Looking down at me with a stern face she’d ask, “What’s so funny Buster?”  And the two of us would laugh until my jaw hurt. Then she would close her eyes and sing us to the hill where the Old Rugged Cross held Jesus.   

     At times my father’s perfect Bing Crosby would join in. “In the cool, cool, cool of the evening, tell her I’ll be there.” And he would tease her, “For a minute there I thought I was with Rosie Clooney.” She blushed every time.

     They were good together. Feel good songs in a feel good home. But then the sickness came. Parkinson’s they called it. The light in her eyes waned slowly into eventide and sank below the horizon.

 

     I was seven when her extended visits to City Hospital began. A week, two weeks at a time. That’s when my grandmother came to live with us.

     She entered the front door cloaked in shadow. A black scarf over her head framed a thin, very wrinkled face before it ended in a knot under her chin. When she removed her long black coat to reveal a long black satin shiny dress that matched her black satin shiny shoes, a feeling of dread came over me. Not a fear of the vision in black, but of the realization that my mother would no longer be caring for us.

     Grandma did not speak English but over the months I became so engrossed in the sounds coming out of her that I began to understand. I learned a few words by watching and listening, but we learned broken English together. She was interesting. She cooked. She kept a spotless house. But she couldn’t sing.

 

     We’d visit Mom each evening, bringing home made bread and pasta and movie magazines. And each evening her face looked more drawn and thin, forming the mask of Parkinson’s, as I heard the doctor call it. At home her songs were quiet, released in tears as she paced back and forth through the house wringing her hands, unable to sit still or sleep.

     I learned her pills. Librium in two tone green, the blue Valium, the white Artane. Little brown bottles replaced the music box on her dresser. It was the blue Valium three times a day that calmed the tremors, granting her a few hours of peace. I even learned to give her Vitamin B12 injections every other week, and how to sterilize the glass syringe and sharpen the needle. Is it destiny that I became a nurse?

 

     There were morning when I would be summoned to the Principle’s office. “Um…. your mother called and needs you at home. I’m afraid she isn’t feeling well again.” He was obviously uncomfortable, looking across his desk into the pale face of a bewildered seven year old.  I ran all the way, fearing what I might find, anticipating the worst. She was crying, unable to sit, unable to pace, lonely and frightened.  I felt lost as I held her hand, then without knowing why, I began to sing.

 

     My mother had been a choir member at Sara Jane Methodist Church.  I would often attend Catholic Mass with my Grandmother at seven on Sunday mornings, then join Mom at Sara Jane to hear her solo. I knew every hymn by heart. That morning I sang them all.

     I sang The Old Rugged Cross. I sang “Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me.” I sang, “Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee.” I sang until my voice crackled and Mom fell back across the bed exhausted. I pulled the bedspread over us where we slept until my father came home.

     In a few years I would become an altar boy at Saint Mary’s.  The mass was in Latin, and although I knew what to do and when to do it, I knew very little about what was going on. I’m not sure if it was boredom or the incense but the sound of Latin echoes would fade and I would lose myself in hymns until some subtle change startled me out of it and I would take my place kneeling at the side of the altar, wondering if I had been singing aloud.

 

     She passed through the veil to the valley of peace in 1971. She’d had enough. But she had given me singing. Singing for joy, singing to lessen pain, singing to soothe. I’ve been singing ever since.

     On some nights her Patti Paige voice echoes through my dreams unexpectedly where she graces me with song. “I was dancing with my darling to the Tennessee waltz.”

     I’m  glad she’s singing. I don’t have to see her to know the light is back in her eyes. I can hear it.

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Comments:
Comment By: FreeLinda Jo on March 28, 2009 12:30:10 AM Report
thanks for being the most gentle soul to tell this touching story of your mother...you can really learn alot about a guy who adores his mother and carries such meaning with him all of his days.  before i could finish i felt the tears...my mom is still with me, she doesnt sing but she whistles just a little and tells some pretty funny stories...warm wishes, shee  p.s. keep singing that happy tune ..we really enjoy it
Comment By: FreeAmy on January 18, 2009 09:07:51 PM Report
This was so touching.  I can't begin to tell you how much your story moved me. It brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of my grandmother. She too loved to sing. I remember walking into her room when she was in her last days. She thought she was alone and she was singing a hymn. The Old Rugged Cross was one of her favorites. I found this in someone else's favorites and am now taking it as one of my own.

~Amy

Comment By: FreeLast Temple Knight on January 15, 2008 03:15:06 PM Report
Truly breathtaking, this moved me so deeply... my mom left me with my grandma and basically left me to fend for myself in a household where music didn't live or was welcomed.  Despite that it still found a place in my heart. Thank you so much for sharing...
Comment By: FreeAlison Storm Wolf on January 11, 2008 04:43:31 PM Report
You have excelled yourself here Joe and that is saying something. There is tragedy and heartache here alright...but the oveerwhelming love just shines out of it all. The sooner you get your book written the better. You have a style of writing that not only brings things, people and places alive....but leaves the reader with a warm feeling in their heart. This made me cry for the beauty in it.

 

Ali x

Comment By: FreeLeonard Wilson on January 10, 2008 05:28:36 PM Report
This is so honest, Joe. The love of family shines through every line. The fact that this is well-written is secondary to the feelings you express. In the sweet by and by, we will meet on that beautiful shore. My mother used to sing that often. The things you write always go to the common human denominator in all of us. Just beautiful, my friend...len
Comment By: ModeratorHenry M. on January 10, 2008 04:42:27 PM Report
As I have said on many occasiond Joe, nobody tells a story better than you do! This is a very moving and tender tale that is told from the heart. Awesome Joe, simply awesome!   Henry

Comment By: FreeRoger Bacon on January 9, 2008 02:36:25 PM Report

I've always enjoyed sentimental poetry.  For me they move from complication to simplicity and the reader can relate with the experience, whether shared or not.     


Comment By: FreeShe Whispers on January 6, 2008 10:50:27 PM Report
Joe, This is outstanding to read thank you for posting this.. You always post the best poems.. Hope your having a great New Year!! Hugs ~ She Whispers

Comment By: PremiumMary Lou Allen on January 6, 2008 08:23:48 PM Report
How wonderful, jp. This is a favorite for me. I learned all those songs at home too. Losing Mama is the hardest thing there is to do, I think. But thank God, she's still with us.  Well done. ML
Comment By: FreeLady Dragonwyck on January 6, 2008 07:08:39 PM Report
Joe:  amazing and so beautifully told.  You gave us the 7 year old trying to understand and being THERE for his mom and the grandmother.  This is an incredibly deep and passionate write  Thank you for sharing.  Your Mom is walking through the Gardens in Heaven singing and everyone eagerly listens and smiles.

 

Lady D

Comment By: FreeGlata on January 6, 2008 06:57:21 PM Report
Joe...this touched my heart in the deepest parts...moving me to tears as I felt the pain in that little seven-year old boy's heart.  Absolutely bound for my favorites...

You really should write a book...seriously. Amazing!

Hugs  and wiping tears...

Glata

Comment By: PremiumMelanie on January 6, 2008 06:55:47 PM Report
Joe,

This one has your mom smiling down upon you. It is so very nicely written.

Comment By: Premiumlionheart on January 6, 2008 05:36:48 PM Report
This is memorable and very moving Joe.

It will become one of my favorites.
thanks for posting this.

Sincerely,
Richard





 


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