When his older brother got ALS,
he promised they’d find a cure.
When his older sister got ALS,
he promised her his untiring care.
When he himself got ALS,
with self-love and a sense of certitude
he found belief in a lie, which he knew
was white as the doctor’s coat:
each ability he’d come to lose
would be transferred to a child –
a girl in Africa, a boy in Vietnam, so he imagined.
As it was for his siblings,
the gift-giving began focally,
then gradually, reliably spread.
First, the ability to walk:
one day his feet grew heavy
and soon like lead gave up;
thus, a baby hearing “Come to Momma”
took a few first suspenseful steps.
Next, was teeth brushing:
his hands argued with each other
as mint paste squeezed to the floor;
and in his mind, with parents hovering,
a child made a few foamy, delicate swirls.
Eventually, the ability to swallow:
his and his family’s hoarded frustrations
and the worry in his wife’s eyes
made it progressively difficult, then impossible;
he almost forgot that somewhere –
to a babbling choo-choo train
or cooing propeller plane –
first bites of solid food were being gobbled.
By the time it was too much to leave the house
(such were his cramps, fatigue, and incontinence),
he longed more for being honest than happy.
Perhaps this was why there came a day,
when he muttered a favor to his neurologist.
Understanding, having been asked before,
the doctor led the man and his wife
through the hospital corridors, to a set of doors.
The wife pressed the button; they wheeled in.
The maternity ward was large, but they found
the double-paned window.
He sat just tall enough to see through –
babies receiving life.
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