The name was given three times, to his grandfather and father before him
Long shadows cast, in all directions.

A name given three times
Nothing so heavy as the weight of expectations
In the town that he will never leave for it
Or in spite of it.

A long year, or was it years
In deferral of death
A diagnosis
The day the end starts
Driving to doctors
Tests, more tests
Name called off a clipboard by nurses in blue scrubs
“No, not me. My father.”

Death came to be the unwanted friend, hanging around
Every holiday
Every family meal, trips to the shore
Anxious, whispering, “This might be the last time you ever have this.”
Tests, more tests
All must be dealt with.

A long year, or was it years
They all needed him
The last of the line
The smell of the hospital
Familiar as home
The last of the line
Would make sure
He would not let them down
Not this time.

There was the day
He stared at the red bricks of the building before going in
People swirling around him
Bringing big bouquets of bright flowers
Tight-faced orderlies pushing wheelchairs
A gray-haired woman, bent, impossibly slow with her walker
A new baby sleeping in a car seat, ready to go home
The day he knew there was nothing more to research
No more calls to make
No hope of delay, distraction
And the urge to run away and keep on running
Or fall to his knees in tears and grief
Was nearly blinding him.

But the doors whirred open
The moment chosen, frozen
He took a breath, his air laced with another visitor’s last-minute smoke
And stepped inside.