On My Watch

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On My Watch
Perthmore, September 2013

Dad is settled now,
For the night.
At least
I think he is.

I am downstairs
In the guest suite.
Dad is upstairs
in mine.

Cried his heart out,
Again,
As I tucked him in.
Those who know,
Know why.

Had our evening chat,
My pleadings that he use
The emergency button
If he needs me
During the night,
And, which,
Of course,
He never does
(i.e., use the
emergency button).

Left him with his music.
He likes it very loud.

I sit in the TV room,
Next door,
Wanting to be certain
He is settled,
Asleep,
Before I retire
To the basement.

Feeling guilty.
Didn’t turn the TV room
Into a bedroom,
Which I should have done.
I should be next door
So that I can hear him
In the night.

After all,
There is an incident
Almost every night.
And he lives
With the consequences
Until morning.

Could be urine,
On the floor.
Could be wet pyjamas,
Or wet slippers.
Could be broken class,
And water everywhere,
A slippery floor.
Could be anything.
And, Heaven forbid
That he fall
When he is alone,
There,
In the night,
When I might not hear.

For sure,
I awaken often,
Make the trek,
Up the stairs,
Down the hall,
Listen at the door,
Make certain
I hear
The regular breathing,
The snores.

Doesn’t mean
There Isn’t a mess.
But if he is asleep
It can all wait
Until the morning,
A new day,
When,
Hopefully,
I will have
Less pain
And new energy.

Lying in bed now.
Ears tuned to upstairs.
Back burning,
So badly.
Back aching,
So badly.

My whole body,
My whole being,
Exhausted
With the strains
Of the day
And the pain,
So unrelenting,
And so pervasive
With this new life,
This care giving life.

Hoping
Beyond hope
That the pain,
And chronic fatigue,
Will settle back,
To “normal”,
As we get into
New routines,
His,
And mine.
As we settle
The legal stuff.
As he comes to deal
With his new
Reality,
And I come to deal
With mine.

Family is there,
Of course,
Helping out,
In so many ways.
And I will forever
Be grateful.

Dad is becoming accustomed,
I think
To having a daughter,
Or daughters,
To tuck him in
At night.
Making sure he knows
He is loved,
And wanted,
And not a burden.

Wish I could have
Had him longer.
All too quickly
He was gone.
We didn’t even get
A chance
To settle into
All those new routines.

He didn’t get
The chance
To really
Appreciate
The way his new life
Could have been.

I didn’t get a chance
To make a whole lot
Of difference.

But it ended quickly,
Weeks only,
And he was gone.

I will always be glad
That I had the chance
To have him here,
With me,
For a while.

I will always wish
I had done better.

And I will always feel,
To some extent,
The guilt that he died
On my watch
Which was,
Of course,
Inevitable
From that moment
When his furniture
Came through my door,
And Dad too,
Watching
While his things
Were organized,
His pictures hung,
His computer made to work.

Dad,
Realizing only now,
I think,
That this was
For the long haul.
Not just a short stay
‘Til his wife
Felt better
And wanted him home,
Which we all knew,
And he could not accept,
Was never
Going to happen.

But the long haul
Was really
A short haul.

Then he was gone,
A very bad fall,
On my watch,
Hospitalization,
The dying process,
The long leaving.

And we are all
Left here
Missing him.

Two parents gone now.
The cord to the past is cut.
The family goes on.
Indeed it grows.

And we keep with us
Their legacy,
A great legacy,
A lasting legacy,
A forever,
For as long as we
Shall live,
Legacy.
A legacy
For the generations.

 

And the World Was Mine!

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(Adapted from my Scotland Diary)

And the World Was Mine
Conqeuring Ben Rinnes, October 4, 2010

See the video by clicking on the link below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CA_RBSEU3w4

Sister Patricia’s birthday today!
She’s 59 years young.
Which makes me 63.

We start the day celebrating,
Quick breakfast,
Boiled eggs and toast.
Brother Chris,
And his wife Eileen,
Have prepared a packed lunch.

Excitement is in the air.
We are preparing to undertake
An awesome challenge,
Something to celebrate
This very special day.

We’ve eaten breakfast.
Everything is packed.
Anticipation is growing.

We pile in the car.
We drive to Ben Rinnes.

A Corbet-level mountain,
2,800 feet.

(Side note:
A dozen people are killed on the Scottish mountains
Every single year,
Thankfully not yet on Ben Rinnes,
Twice thankfully,
We didn’t add to the toll today.)

Walking it in zigzag fashion
Across the mountain,
Some of it straight up,
About 20,000 steps in all,
We figure,
With the Up and
With the down.

Can we do it?
Can we make it to the top,
To the pinnacle?

Everyone hopes.
Everyone dreams.
But we all secretly question:
Can I do it?
Or will I
Be the one left behind,
While the others
Finish the climb?

Each with our secret fears.
Each with our secret doubts.
Each with our secret hopes.

We start out
In beautiful sunshine,
A bright,
Cool,
But clear day.
White clouds,
A nice breeze,
Lots of layers of clothes,
Sunglasses,
Hats,
Walking sticks,
Gloves,
Cameras,
Backpacks,
Food,
Water,
Cool drinks,
And, of course,
That inevitable,
That Life Saving,
That always present,
Shared,
Flask of Scotch!

And so,
We take it in stages.
Sometimes,
In the steepest parts,
We do less than fifty yards
Before resting.

There is occasional relief
As we come to a flat stretch.
It never lasts for long.

We look back.
We cannot see our start point.
We look up.
We cannot see our end point.
We cannot see
The Bottom
Or the top
Of Ben Rinnes.

We are almost
Alone in the world.
We see only 4 people,
And 2 dogs,
During the course
Of our climb
And our descent.

So exciting:
We receive a wing-tip salute
From the Royal Scottish Air Force.
We wave down to them
On their fly-bys
Through the valleys.
We could almost hike a ride,
They come so close,
Just a big step down,
It seems,
And we could climb aboard.

The slow pace
Of the climb
Is for me,
Of course.
The others
Could do it
So much more quickly
Left on their own.

But, for me,
Though I never speak it,
Each step up is painful,
Pain in my back,
Pain in my hips,
Pain emanating down my legs.

The rest stops are essential
If I am to make it
To the top.

And I so much
Want to make it
To the top.

And I do.
Thanks to the patience
Of the others,
We all make it!

We all make it
To the very top,
The highest pinnacle
Of Ben Rinnes!

As we have been climbing:
Cameras flashing,
Laughing,
Shouting, with joy,
The odd sip
From our little flask.
And for me, at least,
The pain of the climb,
The pain
That I know so well.

Legs aching,
Feet aching,
Knees aching,
Back aching.
That bearable, unbearable, pain.

I was never sure
That I could make it.
But I did.
We all did.

We conquered the mountain.
We reached the pinnacle –
With Patricia in the lead,
Chris, Eileen and Cathy
Very close behind.
Wendy bringing up
The very far rear.

We look to the North.
We look to the South.
We look to the West.
We look to the East.

We can see
To the horizon
In every direction:

Hill after hill,
Layer after layer,
Peak after peak.

In the distance,
The heather blowing.
White clouds.
Blue sky.
Scottish Highland
At its highest
And its best.

Greens, every shade.
Grays, sometimes verging on black.
Golds.
Browns.
Some purple, still,
In the heather.
It is breath taking.
It is beautiful,
More than
We ever imagined,
As we looked
To the beyond,
As we looked
To the forever.

What else can I share?
Ah, perhaps to tell you
Of the biggest challenge
Of the climb
(Barring the pain of course):

The wind!

As we climbed
This very open,
This beautiful,
This heather-covered mountain,
The wind has been rising.

By the time
We reach the top,
We are on hands
And knees
Battling the wind.

Gale force winds.

We can fall into the wind
And it will hold us in place.

It is battering us,
Bending us over double.

We can barely take
Our absolute-must-take photos.

We can barely manage
The packed lunch
And our shouted rendition
of Happy Birthday
For Patricia.

We have every layer of clothes on.
It is getting colder.
We fight the last part of the climb
With all of our strength,
Struggling to get over the pinnacle,
Struggling to stand
And exult in our achievement.

But it is not over.
The descent
Is now made more challenging,
Even dangerous,
By winds
That continue to batter us
As we fight our way through them.

But on we battle.
We laugh,
And shout,
And scream,
And revel,
In the moment,
Exhilarated to the core.

Six hours after starting our climb
We are relaxing
At The Highlander Inn.

We are toasting
With our Brews
And our Ciders.

We are tired.
We are happy.

And I celebrate
That moment –
The moment
When I conquered
Ben Rinnes.

The moment
When I conquered Ben Rinnes.

And the World Was Mine!

A Lifetime of Grateful

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A Lifetime of Grateful
Stittsville, 2009

I could count
Those moments
On the fingers
Of my two hands.

Those rare,
And beautiful,
Moments
When a realization
Settles,
Suddenly,
Upon me.

Standing,
Perhaps,
At the kitchen counter,
Or sitting,
Perhaps,
Colouring,
Or reading.

I stop,
As it descends
Like a rare,
And precious,
Gift:
A moment,
Of complete,
And total,
Absence
Of Pain.

This simply
Doesn’t happen.
It hasn’t
For, oh,
So many
Years.

Sure,
There are times,
When the count
Is low.
I might give it
A 4 out of 10,
A 5 out of 10.
But this,
This is different.
It does not
Even register.

It is an absence,
Pure,
And simple,
An absence
Of pain.

Meds, perhaps,
Kicking in?
They don’t,
For the most part,
Help much,
Other, perhaps,
Than to take
An edge off
Now and then.

But this sweet,
Momentary,
Blissful,
Absence.
This complete
And total
Absence,
Of pain,
Settles on me,
And I shudder
With the ecstasy
Of it,
While everything else
Is in suspension,
Even my breath.

And,
For this moment,
This
Oh so sweet
Moment,
I am grateful.
Deeply,
Blissfully,
Grateful.

A lifetime
Of Grateful
In a Moment.

This Unendurable Pain

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This Unendurable Pain
En Route from Gatineau, Que., to Stittsville, ON, 2008

5:45 p.m.,
And I’m almost home,
After another long day
Of battling pain,
Minute by minute,
Hour by hour.
And somehow
Here I am again,
At the end of my work day,
In the car,
Almost home.
And the pain goes on.

I wonder,
As I often do,
How can I go on?
Really,
How can I go on?
How can I manage
One more minute?
Much less one more hour?
Much less one more day?
One more week?
One more month?
One more year?

I’m home now.
Snuggles has been fed.
I’m standing at the kitchen counter
Chopping vegetables for a salad,
After injecting myself
With magnesium
And B12.

If I can just stand here a little longer,
Just a few more minutes,
Long enough
To finish the salad,
To make a cup of tea,
To collapse onto the love seat
With my supper,
My ice packs,
My morphine.

The morphine that barely touches the pain,
Barely, barely makes a dent in it,
Barely gets me through the evening,
As I struggle to go on,
Moment by moment,
Hour by hour,
Week by week,
Month by month,
Year by year,
Bearing this unbearable pain!

I wonder,
Again,
And yet again,
How a human being can go on,
Looking normal,
Acting normal,
To all appearances
A normal human being.
All the while
Just enduring.

Just enduring,
Minute by minute,
Hour by hour,
This lonely,
This unendurable,
This unbearable,
Pain,
That somehow must be made bearable.
Because what other choice is there?
But to go on,
To never give in.
To never give up.

Although,
If I knew
What giving in meant,
What giving up meant,
What it looked like,
In real terms,
Then I might do it!
But I don’t,
And so I go on
Bearing this unbearable pain,
Its loneliness,
Its despair,
Its unrelentingly,
Cruel relentlessness.

And I ask why,
But will never know why,
I must endure,
Seemingly endlessly endure,
Hopelessly endure,
This unendurable pain.

To Maybe Wake, To Maybe Not

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To Maybe Wake, To Maybe Not
The  Parkway near my  Condominium, 2003

Stumbling,
Tripping,
Over
My own feet.

Eyes closing,
Closing,
Closing.
So hard
To keep them
From closing.

Barely aware
Of my
Surroundings.
Trying so hard
To focus
On taking one step
After another,
Just one more step,
And then another.

Overdose, I think.
So much pain this morning.
Slapped my Fentanyl Patch
Right over my spine.
Didn’t help much
On my shoulder.
So maybe, I thought,
It might do more
On my spine.

That’s if I thought
At all,
Of course.

Sometimes in a daze
Of pain and drugs,
I hardly knew
What I was doing.

But I did know,
With practical certainty,
That if I lay down to rest
On that particular day,
If I dared to give in,
For even a moment,
Then I might not get up again,
Not on that day,
Nor ever again.

Barely remember
That morning.

Barely remember
That whole day.

Just remember
Those moments,
By the river,
Trying so hard
To focus.

To focus
On putting
One foot
In front
Of the other.

Barely conscious.
Eyes closed.
Stumbling
In my waking sleep.

I wonder sometimes
Why I didn’t just give in.
Could have rested
On my bed,
Or on the grass,
In the sun,
And maybe slept
The long sleep.
The restful sleep.
The pain-free sleep.
The forever
And ever
Sleep.

That day,
It would have been so easy.
To stop.
To lie down.
To sleep.
To maybe wake.
To maybe not.

Two Hours to Go ’til Home

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Two Hours to Go ’til Home
Enroute from Bancroft to Ottawa, 2002

Eyes closing,
As I drive.

Dizzy,
Nauseous,
So very tired!
Impossible to stay awake.
A danger to myself.
A danger to others.

Parked now,
At the side
of an isolated northern highway,
Dozing in
and out,
Struggling towards wakefulness.

Zombie-like effects of medications:

Percocet –
Oxycontin –
The Fentanyl Patch –
Gaba Pentin –
Hydromorphone –
Vioxx –
Amitriptylene –
Lyrica –
Cymbalta –
Naproxen –
Tylenol with Codeine.

Whatever concoction,
Whatever mix,
I’m on now.
Who knows,
There were so many.

No cell reception,
Isolated,
Anxious,
Still struggling towards wakefulness,
Two hours to go ‘til home.

And the pain, of course.
Always the pain.

The story of my life now,
Pain,
Medications that do little good,
Side effects that devastate.

A new young doctor.
He’s never been in pain.
Says he can help me.
All sorts of options.
“We’ll” experiment, he says.

The “we” meaning “me”.
15 minute visits at most,
A new prescription.
Or, more often,
More than one.

And off I go,
And the pain goes on,
The side effects too.

And here I am
At the side
of an isolated northern highway.
Dozing,
Anxious,
Struggling towards wakefulness,
Two hours to go ‘til home.

Pain is Only Pain, After All

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Pain is Only Pain, After All
My First Yoga Class, Summer 1998

Desperately seeking:
Salvation,
Freedom,
From the pain.

A cure, a cure, a cure.
Somewhere,
There must be a cure.

Been through:
Every medication,
Every modality,
Except one.

Drawn somehow
To figure out
This yoga thing,
To give it a try.

Didn’t know much about it really.
Thought of it as pretzel poses
That I could never do anyway.

But what if,
What if,
I could actually do it?
And what if,
What if
There was something there that could help?

What if?
What if?

So, here I am
In my first ever yoga class.

Keep in mind
It took a great deal of effort
Just to get here.

It is taking a great deal of effort
Just to stay here,
To sit in easy pose,
And wait for class to start.

Effort meaning working through pain
Just to get up,
To get ready,
To drive,
To arrive,
To be here.

But I’ve come here
With an Attitude!

I am going to do this
No matter what!

It might flare the pain.
Temporarily.

No, not might.
It does
Flare the pain,
Temporarily.

So much pain!

But so what!

I realize
Like a revelation,
Like a light going on
in my brain:

It cannot actually hurt me.
It cannot actually injure me.
This yoga.

I am doing gentle movements,
Some more strenuous,
Working through enormous amounts of pain.

Observing the pain.
Observing the movement.
Observing my body.

My body,
Doing things
It hasn’t done
Since all this pain began.

I feel somehow:
Liberated.

I feel:
Exhilarated.

My body is more than just the pain.

My body can still move.

My body can still bend.

My body can still twist.

My body can still stretch.

And, pain be damned,
There is still some tone.
There is still some muscle.
There is still potential
For my body
To do whatever I want it to do.

Regardless!

Regardless of pain!

That, my friends,
Is the day I learned
That:

Pain is Only Pain, is Only Pain, is Only Pain,
After all.
After all is said and done,
Pain is Only Pain!!!

Even while coping with it,

Even while dealing with it,

Day,
after day,
after day,
after day,

Pain is Only Pain, after all!

And iWendy
Can do anything I want to do
Regardless!

A Cry in the Dark (1997)

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A Cry in the Dark, Island Park Towers, 1997

Lying now, on my new carpet,
In my new apartment,
With pain the likes of which
I’ve never known before.

Two failed marriages behind me.
Ten years, at least –
A Workaholic.
Eighteen months of workplace harassment.
PTSD underlying it all.

A new, high stress job.
Great expectations of me.
That is the problem with winning major awards.
People then expect so much,
Too much.

Exhausted.
Stressed out.
Reliving that first terrible divorce
And the violence and horror it entailed.
Going through the second divorce.

Something finally gives.
And I am in pain,
Pain like I’ve never known.
Lying here on my new carpet
In my new apartment,
Alone,
Alone and in pain.

It was the divorce, I think, that finally did it.
The straw so to speak,
Compounded with everything else.

And now I am here,
Lying on the carpet,
Staring at the ceiling,
My back burning –
Lower back,
Mid Back,
Shoulder Blades,
Upper Back,
Neck,
Shoulders,
Burning,
Aching,
Pain
Like I’ve never known before.

Worried about my job.
A divorce to get through.
A new apartment to furnish.
Organizing all the many details
Of a new life.

And I can barely move,
Barely dress myself,
Barely do much really,
Other than lie here on the floor,
Stare at the ceiling,
And cry.
Cry in the dark.

I’ll give myself two weeks off work, I decide,
That should do it.
That has to do it.

But it doesn’t.
Twenty years later,
Nothing has done it.

I’m functional now,
Live what appears to be a normal life.
But still the pain goes on,
Sometimes like it was then.
Fortunately, often less.
But there every day,
Or parts of every day.
To a great extent
Ruling my life –
What I can do
And what I can’t.

I never would have imagined,
Back then,
In my life before pain,
That I would spend the rest of my life,
Or at least the last 20 years of it so far,
Dealing with pain,
Chronic pain,
Unrelenting pain,
Life-altering pain.

And yet here I am.
Typing this.
Preparing to share, finally,
Some bits and pieces
From those years.

Putting it out there.
My cry in the dark.
Just to see who is there,
Who is listening,
Who knows and understands,
From their own experience,
What it means to live with pain,
What it means to cry in the dark.

22 Hours at Gunpoint – A Day Later

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22 Hours at Gunpoint (http://iwendy.ca/1980/07/12/22-hours-at-gunpoint-1980/) – A Day Later

Racing
Down 20+ Flights.
Terror,
Racing With me.
Terror,
Racing Behind me.
Terror,
Racing Around me,
And In me.

Heart Pounding.
Straining,
For Breath.

Note,
On the Kitchen Table –
“He is not with us.
We don’t know where he is.
Do NOT be alone with him.”

And I’m racing,
Down 20+ flights.
Conscious of one thing only,
The terror following,
The terror surrounding,
The terror consuming,
Every step,
Of every flight.

Reach the bottom.
So afraid
Of that open lobby.

He might be there.
With his gun,
Waiting.
Waiting to take me out.
Waiting to see me fall
Into that forever land
Of never land.

No choice
But to go.
Race through
That terrible space.
A lobby
That is not a lobby,
But a place
Where he
Can lie in wait.

Where do I get
The strength?
I am not a runner.
I am not even very fit.
Yet, I race on.
Heart pounding,
Straining for breath.

Through the lobby,
Out the door,
Gain access to my car,
Key in ignition,
Tires squealing,
Making good my escape,
To live another day,
And then perhaps another,
As I wait,
For the moment,
That moment
When he will keep his promise
To end my life.

I’ve felt it so many times
In my mind.
Felt it,
Seen it,
Heard it.
The shot,
The impact,
The fall,
The blackness.

Then nothing.

But not today.
Tomorrow maybe.
The day after.
Next week.
Next month.

The promise has been made.
And I wait for him to keep it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 Hours At Gunpoint

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22 hours – at gunpoint.
A lifetime – of PTSD, 1980

I am running.
Being chased.
Caught now.
It didn’t take long.
Seconds, really.

He is so fast.
So powerful.
Enraged.
With the strength
Of a madman.

I am dragged,
Literally,
By the neck.
Down the stairs.
To the basement
To the hidden gun.
Back up the stairs.
To the bedroom.

I am beaten.
It doesn’t hurt.
I am
Beyond pain,
Beyond fear,
Fighting
For my very life.

Stripped naked.
Thrown to the floor.
Raped, viciously.
Spare you the details.
No need to know.

Beyond pain.
Beyond fear.
Fighting
For my very life.

Strong hands
Around my neck.
Tightening.
I am losing consciousness.
He laughs.
Tells me I am turning blue.
Strangling me.
Almost to the death.

And I fight.
For my very life.
Eyes of insanity upon me.
Laughter mocking me.
Hands tightening.
Death approaching.
I see my death,
My death,
Approaching.

But,
Suddenly,
He stops.
Rises up.
Presses a shoed foot to my head.
All his weight
Crushing my head.
Grabs nylons from a dresser drawer.
Throws me over.
Ties my hands behind my back,
Nylon cutting into wrists.

I am dragged up
From the floor.
Lifted,
High.
Thrown to a crashing bed.
Where I lie.
Hands tied.
Circulation slowing in my wrists.

I am held at gunpoint.
My fate in the hands
Of a madman.
A madman
With a gun.

And the hours pass.
He paces.
He stops.
Paces.
Stops.
Holds his rifle to my head.
Finger on the trigger.
Tells me to pray.
Paces.
Stops.
Paces.
Stops.
Holds the rifle to my head.
Finger on the trigger.
Tells me to pray.

I wait.
For the final moment.
The click of the trigger,
The ending of my life,
I wait
At gunpoint,
My fate in the hands
Of a madman.

And the hours pass.
He paces, stops, points, tells me to pray.
And the hours pass.

My hands are numb now,
Nylons digging deeply
Into my wrists.
He agrees to untie me,
Finally.
What can I do anyway
Against a madman?
A Madman
With a gun.

He crosses the hall
To the bathroom.
Leaves the gun
Mid-distance between us.
We can both see it
Leaning there
Against the wall.
Dare I go for it?
Would I know how to use it?
Do I just pull the trigger?
Is there a safety?
Could I beat him to it?
Could I even pull the trigger
Given the chance?
I think that I could
You know,
In this moment,
With my own life in the balance,
If only I knew how,
Which I don’t,
And I didn’t.

Suddenly I know.
In that moment,
He is only waiting for the excuse.
The excuse for the blinding rage
That would allow him to pull the trigger.
And so I wait.
The opportunity passes.
The hours too.

I don’t pray.
Never once bargain
With God
Or the universe.
I look occasionally
For the angel of death.
Then close my eyes
So I cannot see.

I start a litany
At some point
During that long night:
Kill me, you kill your mother.
Kill me, you kill my father.
Kill me, you kill your mother.
Kill me, you kill my father.
Kill me, you kill your mother.
Kill me, you kill my father.
On and on.
A monotonous litany.
In my second language,
Not my first.
A monotonous litany.
Hour,
After hour,
After hour.

Finally,
I clutch a pillow to my face.
I cannot look anymore
Down the barrel of that gun,
Into the eyes of a madman.
I clutch a pillow to my face
And wait for the bullet
That will end my life.

And then,
Suddenly,
Something changes.
His eyes seems to clear.
A fog seems to lift.
And,
Just like that,
He tells me its over.
He frees me.
Tells me he will not kill me today.

He will not kill me,
Today,
He says,
But he will kill me
Someday.
He says:
I will never know how.
He says:
I will never know when.
He says:
That someday,
Somewhere,
He will kill me.
He will not allow me to live.
He will not allow me to make a life.
He will kill me.
And I will be dead.

But,
I escape for now.
Escape him.
And death.
For now.

But it’s here with me,
For a lifetime,
That experience
And that threat,
The panic attacks
That persist
Year
After year
After year.

I experience
Again and again,
My 22 hours at gunpoint.
My lifetime of PTSD.