Anniversary Poem

Today is my 36th wedding anniversary. Bob Dylan was right: Time IS a jet plane; it moves too fast. I wrote this poem a bazillion years ago, inspired by my parents’ long marriage, and it was published in a long-since-defunct journal called Plainswoman. I’m sharing it now in honor of my husband Bruce. Back when I wrote it, we had been married less than 10 years. Like anyone, we’ve been through a couple of bumps but were lucky enough to get through to the other side. I finally get what Mark Twain said about no man or woman knowing what perfect love is until they’ve been married a quarter of a century. We celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary two days after my mastectomy and it was one of the sweetest anniversaries we’ve ever had. As I said in my book, going through something like this together makes marriage worth the price of admission.

But there’s another reason I’m sharing this poem. Melissa Travis, a.k.a. @DrSnit, who writes the wonderful Chronic Snarkopolis column on the Dear Thyroid blog, has been tweeting and writing some lovely things about vulnerability, and about hearts healing like bodies heal. That made me remember my poem and gave me the courage to continue inching my way out of the poetry closet by sharing it. It’s one thing to have something out there in a little print journal with small readership. It’s quite another to put yourself out there online for the world to see. So thank you, Melissa. And happy anniversary to my BFF Bruce.

Anniversary Poem
                                -for Mom and Dad

Our parents mend what we would throw away.
A bit of flannel shirt becomes a quilt
that keeps us warm. A scrap of denim
saved against a day when knees
on best-loved pairs of jeans wear out;
too good to throw away.

A scrap of kindness also tucks away
to make another kind of quilt.
Love is like flannel,
too good to throw away
simply because it frays around the edges.
Thrift allows the patience to assume
that hearts can heal and mend as well
as worn-out favorite jeans.
These patchwork hearts will see another day.
Our parents mend what we would throw away.

©2011 Jackie Fox


The First Lady of Breast Cancer

The first thing I noticed in my newspaper this morning was a front-page story that former first lady Betty Ford had died. If you’re old enough to still read a print newspaper instead of getting your news exclusively online, you’ll remember her. If you’re not, you need to know what an extraordinary woman she was.

I was 19 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974. At that time, cancer was something you just did not talk about. But Betty Ford was as open and honest about her diagnosis as she was about every other part of her life, a trait that sometimes got her into trouble but also endeared her to many.

The impact of her sharing this news was immediate and widespread. The story I read this morning said that women were flocking to their doctors for checkups before she even left the hospital. It quoted Ford telling people in 2001, “It was kind of like, if the first lady can have breast cancer, anyone can have breast cancer.”

Through her openness and honesty, Betty Ford did more to raise awareness of breast cancer than a million pink ribbons could ever do. May God bless and keep her.