Comment on this article

As Good As It Gets
by Carole Bugge

It is 1967 and we are flying down a sun-spackled country road
         on a summer day in your red Volkswagen
You in the front driving, my sister and I standing behind
         gripping the back of your seat tightly
                our heads poked through the sun roof like ostriches
                        laughing as the wind whips our hair,
                                thick with sand and seawater, into stiff stalks

Our older cousin, you are sleek and sure and self-possessed,
    everything I am sure never to be
    small, compact, orderly, quiet – qualities I admire because
            though we are bound by blood ties, they are not in my nature

And you are kind, so kind
       A caretaker, your life defined by giving
And there are always others who need you –
       your students, a stricken mother, an ill husband, two fatherless children
quietly, calmly, you put your needs on hold to manage, teach, and care for others

It is 1969, my sister and I your first house guests after your marriage to Chuck (who
we adore secretly, madly, with adolescent yearning)
       In your cozy apartment
       he makes pancakes on your new griddle, writing our names in batter
       We are enthralled, grateful, thrilled
              That night we lie awake in our single beds
                     breathless at the glamour of your life

It is 1977 and I am flying up the Garden State Parkway
       in my open green convertible
       a basket of strawberries on the seat next to me
       warmed by the sun, juicy red jewels of perfection
We bought them together at your farmers market in Lancaster
This is as good as it gets, I think as each berry bursts open in my mouth
       delivering the gift of eternal summer

Weathering tragedy, you reinvent your life,
       carving out a broad, spectacular second act
       with a new love in a new state
       on a New England mountainside
              amid fields of winter wheat and goldenrod
              and the occasional curious bear, poking around for scraps

It is 2007 in your kitchen and I watch you cutting carrots into perfect, smooth spears
                before placing them in tidy plastic containers, tucking them away
                in your perfectly orderly fridge
                You are careful, so careful
         That night you serve corn in a bone china bowl, freshly cut from the cob
                Corn cobs are messy
                As untidy as you are neat, I am grateful to you for rescuing me
                from the ignominy of spewing kernels all over your immaculate table

         Afterwards we play cards at the kitchen table, a game PG (your new love)
                discovered on a cruise
                laughing, faces shiny from sun and happiness
                bellies crammed full of lamb chops and sweet corn
                once again I am struck by the breathless beauty of your life

It is 2010 and we arrive at your empty house to find a box of chocolates
                and a gift certificate for a massage waiting for us
                even in your absence, you are taking care of us

It is 2017, and you lie in bed, a pale grey bird, your hands thin and delicate
                your body shrinking, the kindness in your eyes undiminished
                tended to by an island woman with a buoyant voice and quick, sure hands

                You are calm, so calm
Floating now, as your spirit prepares to separate from its mooring
                the physical becoming ethereal as you slide into eternity
                but there always was something otherworldly about you

As I kiss you goodbye, you press a sandwich into my hands
                "Here," you whisper, "I didn’t eat this and thought you might like it."
                                I did.    I liked it very much
It is August 1967 and we are flying down a sun-spackled country road
                in your red Volkswagen

                Fly, gentle spirit
                Fly away
                You were as good as it gets



Return to:

[New] [Archives] [Join] [Contact Us] [Poetry in Motion] [Store] [Staff] [Guidelines]