Autobiographical poem/story based on lived experience
an excerpt from the ethnodrama/preview "Who Cares?"
written by C.L. McLean
performed September 23, 2015 Acadia University, Nova Scotia
Two Eggs Soft Boiled
I wish she could have joined us for breakfast today, but it’s too late now,
too late to have visited her more often than I did,
too late for more meat pies, Syrian bread, fatias, Kibi
with pine nuts made especially for me,
made with love in her kitchen in the small house in Espanola
so small could barely fit a table.
I remember my mother-in-law, Frances, in her hospital room
nearly time for brain surgery,
neuroblastoma cancerous, another tumour, about the size of a walnut.
She was 87 years old.
I am standing next to Frances
they are preparing her gurney,
the one that will wheel her down the hall
in a very short time,
up to the elevator that will take her to the operating room.
I don’t know what to say.
I know she always loved her food
as much as she enjoyed sharing it with us.
Afraid for her now
and afraid for me,
it’s her third cancer operation,
double mastectomy at thirty-two,
two small children at home
two breasts removed
months of radiation and surgery
battled a reoccurrence, bowel cancer
and now this, this, brain cancer.
“You’ll be back for breakfast tomorrow morning,” I say.
“Yeah?” She turns to look at me. “What will we be having?”
“Eggs and toast with wild blueberry jam, the good jam.”
“Yes the good jam,” she smiles.
“Eggs how do you want them?” I ask.
“Boiled, make them boiled.”
“White or brown toast?” I ask.
She looks up at me.
The attendants crank up the bed, ready to transfer her to the gurney.
“Keep talking, oh keep talking, don’t stop. It’s helping,” she says.
“Oh the toast,” I say, “it’s good with butter and lots of jam, lots not just a little
and the eggs, we don’t want to overcook them.”
They are lifting her body and moving her now on to the gurney,
lying there, they are wheeling her toward the elevator.
I am standing outside the hospital room
turned toward the elevator, one last look, good bye.
The elevator doors open and they wheel her in and before I turn to go…
she leans forward, raises her hand, puts up two fingers and calls out
“Remember two eggs…soft boiled.”
Two eggs soft boiled.
Egg, symbol of nurturing, rebirth, hope
this her last thought she might return
to join us for breakfast in the morning.
It will never be too late
to remember her,
the meaning of her life
the love food provides.
To give thanks here at this table
for the gifts she gave,
her loving generous presence
and these two eggs, soft boiled.
C.L. McLean excerpt from the script “Who Cares” 2015.
The script (40 pgs.) for the preview ethnodrama, “Who Cares?” was written in August 2015 and the 50 minute preview show, we referred to as “a taste of”, took place September 23 at the Lower Denton Theatre, Acadia University. In the audience were faculty members, physicians, spiritual care workers, dietitians, caregivers, students and community members.