The Elephant

A trip to Mayo revealed
suspicious growths on his lungs.
A lifetime smoker,
at eighty-six he did not need to
be told what that meant.
Mother said, “He doesn’t want
to discuss the matter,
but is resolute to die at home.”
He never returned
for the appointment to confirm
a definitive diagnosis.
Cancer was to be the unnamed
elephant in the room.
In the time following, if asked
about his health,
he would deflect the question.
It was Mother who told
us about his loss of appetite,
those sleepless nights,
the frequent bouts with pain.
A man of few words
and one never driven to tears,
on the phone he would
discuss the garden’s prospects,
compare weather news,
then end the call with “me too”
when I declared my love.
Shortly after his next birthday,
thirteen months later
and one day before his death,
he still would not
acknowledge that elephant.
Even as it stepped on
his toes, he refused the gift of
morphine, telling me
with a wan smile, “I don’t want
to become addicted.”

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