A Quarter Mile Down the Gravel Road
A quarter-mile down the gravel road, he saw the four there
And when he drove in the drive he felt a cold, icy stare,
From the son and daughter who made for the front door.
He then caught a view of the man named Joe on the riding mower.
He was here to see Joe and the family in such great need.
He climbed out of the car; Joe’s wife moved to intercede.
The mower had stopped, all things still and cold and distant,
She stopped him like a yellow police barrier insistent
That he watch out for her beloved who cut paths on the mower
Else she and her man and woman child would show him the door.
He meant no harm, but they were understandably protective
Of the man who was husband and dad and unprotected
Now with a disabling disease, something that made ill at ease
Everyone in the family and his guess everyone who tried to please
Those who were going through anticipatory grief and disbelief
Like the wife and son and daughter who stand in bass relief
On the grounds of the house that has the imprint of the man
All over it, house and yard and poll barn and vegetable garden.
The man named Joe, still big and strong and looking powerful
Had stopped the mower and everything became peaceful.
He had pulled, laboriously, one hand from the steering wheel
The key being turned with fingers that still had some feel,
Offering up that big, banana fingered hand with insistence
The other forearm, lifting and holding with patient persistence.
It was as if he was struggling to be as gracious as possible
Under the circumstances when the host should be hospitable,
But that was the way it was the visitor would find out
Over the course of months and months of family being stout
And Joe being gracious, hospitable and one of a kind
It seemed to the one who visited over and over in his mind.
Time went by and weekly visits progressed with mother
Son and daughter spirited away in the kitchen with another
Friend of the family. They still seemed suspicious of him
Who had driven up the drive that fall day and had seen them
In all their vulnerability, unable to change reality and no power
To make Lou Gehrig go away, that shadow who would glower
Over the ever weakening body of the man of the house
And make everyone there feel as if they had a dose
Of cold water tossed in their face. Wake up, wake up to reality!
No, no! Each would shout from the kitchen into eternity.
Joe’s voice was soft and warm like a late spring rain
He comforted the visitor with the ever same refrain
Which must have driven the family to distraction from the other
room as they heard him speak of prayer and the loving cover
Of God over all of them. They felt only cold, piercing ice
Falling from the gutterless roof on their heads making a slice
Neat and quick which cut them to the quick, the shaft securing
Them to the ground, they were unable to move, no turning
Around, standing frozen by the kitchen sink hating more and more
The sounds of sadness spoken ever more quietly and uttered for
Peace and serenity. Joe couldn’t move his now thin, limp body
And his voice was so quiet even the attentive ears heard nobody.
The visitor knelt close to Joe’s supine stance to hear
And feel the soft, warm loving breath on his cheek, a whisper.
Joe saw the visitor’s tears stream down his face and he saw
The shoulders shaking, so with enormous will, Joe lifted his paw-
Like hand raised up with the monumental persistence
The visitor had seen in the fall. Now, done again with insistence
And placed, not dropped, on the folded hands of the weeping
Visitor. It was Joe’s benediction for the visitor’s keeping.
They just stayed in that place of grace and the visitor could
See Lou standing with hat over heart while thousands stood
To hear him speak through tears the words unfurled
That he was the luckiest man in the world.
Joe’s eyes were shut, his breathing shallow
The family stood at the door sensing they needed to follow
Through the thin place into that sacred space
Of peace, and love and Eternal Grace.