Vox Populi

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Jeffrey Harrison: Disconcerting

is the word your mother latched onto

during the months your father was dying.

Scrunched in the plaid armchair

by his hospital bed in the nursing home,

she would comment that the attitude

of the waitress who had served us lunch

was “disconcerting.” Or a news story

about catastrophic global climate change

coming through the flat screen TV

was “disconcerting.” Donald Trump’s

campaign was taking off, and that

was “very disconcerting,” as was,

in a different way, the resurgence of

your father’s cancer. Everything on a scale

from truly horrible to remotely unpleasant

was “disconcerting”: the latest mass shooting,

the way a driver cut us off on the freeway.

The word became the mantra of

her last few years, which were, in fact,

often disconcerting: her descent

into dementia, her cancer diagnosis,

her fall, her fractured hip. It felt as though

she were speaking unwittingly about

her own condition or using the word

to wall out things that threatened her.

By the time she started having trouble

finding words, we had all started saying it,

usually adding a tag of attribution

(something or other was “disconcerting,

as Mum–” or “as your mother would say”),

playfully at first, but then with more sadness.

She still smiled when we entered the room

and gasped in astonishment at the view

when we drove her around the Malibu hills…

until the last time, when she barely

looked out the window, which we all

found disconcerting. The word was now

completely ours, whether we liked it

or not, like one of the shirts or sweaters

she would give us that were never quite

to our taste but we sometimes wore anyway.


Copyright 2021 Jeffrey Harrison. First published in The Gettysburg Review. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.

Jeffrey Harrison’s many books include Between Lakes (Four Way, 2020).

Image: Unsplash

3 comments on “Jeffrey Harrison: Disconcerting

  1. Barbara Huntington
    April 6, 2022

    Maybe not repeating myself, but the typo–o–o–s

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barbara Huntington
    April 5, 2022

    Mom stated out the window at my jacaranda tree and exclaimed about its beauty every few minutes as if she had never seen it before. And “disconcerting” is a word she, also, would use a lot after her second husband died. As she sank into Alzheimer’s. After she fell and broke he hip round dancing. After her husband stayed in her hospital room day and night snd caught H1N1 and died 20 days after her fall. And now, after my stroke, am I repeating myself?

    Liked by 2 people

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This entry was posted on April 5, 2022 by in Health and Nutrition, Poetry and tagged , , , , , .

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