Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I wrote the following in 2007 after watching my Dad shuffle slowly to his recliner one evening.  His upper body had begun to wither, and he was stooped and frail.  Macular degeneration allowed him some peripheral vision, enough to allow him passage to his destinations around the house.  Reaching the chair, he lightly touched the arm, steadied himself, and in slow motion eased into the recliner.  With tired, rounded shoulders he leaned to the left and drifted into sleep.  

This lion of a man who once roared his way through life was now physically small and dependent upon others for daily routines, sitting down, standing, and walking.  And though we probably didn't realize it then, he was going to depend on us, his family, for maintaining his dignity.  We were to soon learn about a journey called Parkinson's.  That journey continues today. 

memories running 

if youth is fleeting 
then old age must last 
an even shorter time 

each day passing from weeks to years 

'til stooping over, 
bent and slowly 
we walk to an oversized chair 
and sit; 

with eyes shut tight
sleep brings vision, 

a gentle balm for 
memories running 
slipshod away with 

Daily walks were a routine for my parents.  Beneath the pines, live oaks, and sweetgum trees of East Texas they would walk each evening around the perimeter of their 10 acre home.  Dad had begun to have some difficulty with his steps, and with the MD he wasn't able to see the path well enough to negotiate the grass, twigs, and variances of the terrain. He would bend forward and shuffle along, creating more potential for stumbling or falling.  Not knowing how Parkinson's was affecting his movements, Mom would encourage him to stand up straight and look forward.  

One evening, I was in the yard with him and we were talking about how he could improve his posture and his walk.  In my ignorance I offered suggestions and we practiced walking.  If it didn't quite solve the problem, it at least offered him some measure of hope for better mobility.  It gave him a glimmer of confidence.  

stand straight 

stand straight - shoulders up- head high-
your posture is feeble and bent
his caretaker, angel and wife encouraged. 

later he sat on the porch facing dusk 
reigning in tears behind octogenarian eyes 
all but blind; 

sorry for letting us down.
for not walking taller.
apologetic for the burdens of his infirmities - 
"blind, deaf and dumb" he said to me. 

his once little boy then soothed 
the "child-inside-the-dad" 
and we practiced the walk, the gait, 
with shoulders straight 

and with purpose restored 
to his life again

that night he marched upright
and proudly 
to bed.  

Poems © 2007 by R. Burnett Baker 


  1. That is so poignant.

    When we live right there, the decline is so slow that we are not shocked at it, and we handle the gradual increases in our responsibilities without too much trouble.

    In my case, I probably thought I was providing better care than I really was, but at the time it seemed good.

  2. Beautiful. As we see our parents and older siblings decline it brings the reality of what awaits us to the forefront. Who will care for us? What plans should I be making? But, one must enjoy life & not dwell on illness and death or what would be the purpose of life?