My Daughter Comes Home to Take Care of Her Sick Father

I call home. My daughter says, “He is doing fine.

Here, he’s getting ready to sleep. Talk to him.”

He sounds distant and confused. He has forgotten

where I am. I tell him. He says, “When will I be going?”


“Where?” I ask him. He stumbles, can’t find the words

to explain. “Go to sleep now, I whisper. I love you.” Tears push

at the back of my eyes. When my daughter gets back on the phone

she says, “He wants you to know he loves you, too.”


I do not understand how love could become so complicated.

I am ashamed that some part of me wants this to end, to just

stop, that increasingly I’m planning his funeral, though even

that is confused and fraught with guilt. How can I love him

and at the same time want him to die so I won’t have

to be responsible anymore? What shame I feel. What kind

of person am I who could love him, and now that he is

in a wheelchair, now that he wears a diaper and needs to be

washed and fed, now that he has forgotten how to sit down,

or answer the phone, now that he is. losing his mind, now

that he has become more like a baby than a husband, that

in my darkest cave could wish him dead, the funeral over,

the house no longer smelling like a nursing home, no longer full

of too many people, and I with the house sold, living in a condo,

where I can shut the door behind me,

safe and quiet and alone.



Used by permission of the author.

Maria Maziotti Gillan

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is a recipient of the 2014 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature from AWP ...more