Janet Syverud

written in 1998, poet deceased, submitted by the author’s son,
a UVA faculty physician

The fluorescent clock reads 3:14 a.m.
I can’t sleep.
I’m growing old … and frightened.
Will I be that drooling, toothless old lady … sagging in a nursing home wheelchair?
Or like my “lost in Alzheimer’s” neighbor?
Shake and shuffle?
My mind is still 40, my body like a rusted out car.
Patched, repaired.
I lived through the Great Depression, World War II, raised achieving, caring children,
Now far away
Busy with children, careers.
I’ve survived breast cancer, heart attack, Parkinsons …
Able doctors, so young, rushed, no time to chat
Do they see just another old woman, one of hundreds alike?
Everything is harder to do, takes longer … why can’t I sleep?

* * *

It’s morning … the sun is shining!
My lover of 51 years rubs my back, brings me the morning paper, steaming coffee.
One of my children has e-mailed a message.
The postman brings a crayoned picture from a grandchild.
A friend calls … “Let’s go to a garage sale.”
I forget the demons … I’m alive, loved … I smile at an old lady in a wheelchair.
That will never be me.