Monday, October 19, 2009

Wanted: Poem

My friend Elizabeth, who is an interior designer,
called me yesterday. At 85, she's facing major surgery
in a few weeks: removal of a kidney. She is recently
widowed. Nonetheless, our conversation, as usual,
was punctuated with raucous laughter and sharp
witticisms -- Elizabeth has a wicked sense of humor.
And she still works -- her current client is an affluent
woman with several properties, who regularly flies
Elizabeth down to California to consult on the design
process in a home.

I met E. seven years ago -- she was one of my first
customers on the opening day at Two Tartes. The
atmosphere there was a bit frantic, and we didn't know
that we had accidentally turned the coffee pot off.
Of course, E., perfectly assembled in her attire,
ordered a cup of coffee. She sat down, took a sip,
stood up and placed the cup back on the counter,
and said, "It's not. Quite. Hot."

I thought, oh brother, this one is going to be trouble.

Her companion, a wren-thin nervous man with grey wisps
of longish hair, fidgeted outside with a cigarette.

(Just before lunch on that, thankfully, quiet first day,
my business partner cut her fingers deeply enough
to require stitches, and fled to the ER.)

But what followed was not trouble at all, but the beginnings
of two friendships, with two regular customers who daily
added their own particular flavors to the quirky clientele
we were quickly developing.

M., the companion, was E.'s business partner, and their
office was in the crumbling Rainier Cold Storage building
across the street.

Yesterday E. came to me with a special request: she's afraid
she won't survive the surgery, and asked if I'd help her find
a poem (or write one) to her daughter (her only child)
to thank her for the love and support she's given her mother
throughout the years.

Oh hell. This is a really difficult task. I'm not the kind of poet
that easily writes something on-demand. (I don't come with
a remote control on-demand button, alas.) But I'm honored
to be asked, and will get to work searching for something
appropriate out there in the Land of Poetry.

I'm l lucky to have E. as a friend. She's a substitute mom
who will talk about anything. And I mean anything.
She's a dear friend. We get each others jokes.
She inspires me. I'm thankful for these past seven years,
wish it was seventeen years, or twenty-seven.
But I'll take the seven.


  1. What an emotionally difficult assignment, T. I know you are up to the challenge, though. I imagine that E. has spoken to you about her daughter,possibly many times. Can you remember some of her own words, and incorporate them in your poem -- or use them as a springboard?

  2. Woo, this, as your first (is it?) occasional poem.

    You wrote she was like a substitute mother for you. For her daughter E. is her mother, and you have insight into what that must mean. E. told you that her daughter has been with her, loving and supporting E., all these years.

    Clearly E. has a talent for mothering as deep as her talent for design and decoration, and probably even more so.

    You seem to have a lot in common.

    Love, C.

  3. oh my. that's quite an assignment.

  4. What a lovely story; hope you have her around for another seven, or seventeen.

    I'm sure you'll find, or write, the perfect words for her.

  5. I'm no help with the poem but my grandmother had a kidney removed in her late 80's and things went well. I'm hoping that all go well for your E. and that she has years more to spend with both of her 'daughters'.

  6. how is this assignment going? What a lovely relationship - it reminds me very much of my "soul mom" as we used to joke, who was 88 when she died. I hope you get your friend for many many more years.

  7. I called E. today and told her that I just wasn't up to the task, that what her daughter should hear are her mother's own words. She agreed. She got it.

    Thanks to all of you for your encouraging words! Very much appreciated.