They packed the freshly unwrapped presents into the van.
Goodbyes left unsaid –
he sat down and died.
Right there in the big comfy chair that Tommy will not now sit in –
He just died
on Christmas Eve.
Never having to slip-slide over icy West Tennessee roads,
he strode into Heaven instead,
avoiding the perilous path for a much safer one.
They pronounced him at the hospital –
thereby sparing my mother the ordeal
of knowing him dead in my sister’s keeping room.
So officially he died in an ER bed.
The ordeal to come was, instead, transferred to the shoulders of Tommy,
my brother-in-law, and to the conscience of Sherry,
my sister, who having saved so many before him,
could not press hard enough to lure his attention from those pearly gates.
In the days that followed,
we all did things we thought we never could.
I flew to the site of my previous undoing
to mother the mother who was my mother.
Tommy made 20 trips over still-icy roads
to midwife us all
to the places we were born to go.
Eliott, grown to the man the Chief had always dreamed he would be,
piped him over
and took the watch.
Sherry, more accustomed to holding the traces, dropped them into my hands and rested.
Surprising, the many ways we all reacted.
In return, that icy Christmas we got a present we could never have expected.
Children of a reprobate stood beside our mother as she buried her husband, our stepfather, a good man.