Sunny’s Dying
By Marsha Delaney Metcalfe

I said I’d understand if you needed to go.
You soon died.
I said it would be alright if you died but it isn’t.

My rage is a hungry tiger fed by the blood soaked memories.
He said to you, “Promise me you will take care of your mother. Promise me your mother will never be sent into a nursing home?”
Thus your hero of a father extracted a hellish promise.
Had he any idea what he was asking?
The madness and sorrow he was gifting you?
You suspected yes.
You were angry.
Fearing anger as you do,
you were angry at your hero-father.

Blood stains my memory from every time a seizure left you bruised, dazed and bleeding,
Every time you called me, “I just woke up, I think I had a seizure.”
I should have known how much danger you were in, Sunny.
Long before the seizure destroyed you, I should have known.
If I could have gone to the hospital, I would have talked to you.
I could not go to the hospital,
so trusting our together-strength I talked to you
I said it was okay for you to go because I knew how much you really didn’t want to go home.
Home to your mother, to a mother
forgetting everything,
but insisting,
“I have a very good memory,”
she didn’t need care,
while she took risks with a just-healing hip,
and demanded your free time be hers,
your attention be hers,
demanded you believe as she believed,

A mother who, actually,
No matter how she pretended, liked neither of her daughters.

Her daughters had necessary parts.
Sunny and Carol with those unspeakable necessary parts.
Did her sons have necessary parts?
Perfect glorious sons?
So like your handsome brilliant father,
her handsome, brilliant husband.
Of course every part he had was necessary.
Your mother did know, for him, she was a necessary part.

Mary, you did knew how necessary you were ?

Do you know how Sunny, your daughter, fought to be free of you?
As she fought to throw off those ants in Africa?
Screaming little one fighting desperately for freedom from the poisonous creatures,
So she fought to throw off being neglected for the good of poor heathens.
So she fought to throw off hating her body,
hating her necessary parts.
So she fought to throw off manipulation.
So she fought to throw off ‘niceness’ as a façade.
The twelve year old Sunny told her teacher she would someday be a concert violist.
You said, “Don’t brag, Mary Elizabeth.”
So she went to seminary instead.
You said, “That’s nice, Mary Elizabeth.”
Without enough training, she became a concert violinist; for awhile she played in an orchhestra.
Sunny loved the violin.
She had always loved the violin.
But Sunny let it go.
She knew her father and you had a good marriage.
Sunny wanted a good marriage.
So her marriage came first, and Sunny let the violin go.
Then her husband let her go.

Her violin waited.
And students waited to be taught.
Sunny never said to them, “Don’t brag.”
There Sunny discovered her true gift.
Then up and down the Eastern Seaboard she went.
Following the child living with their father.
Following a mentor/lover,
Ed, the teacher-mentor Sunny only half knew she
was in love with.
Sunny knew loving commitment,
passion had blind sided her.

So she followed work, and whichever of the two children was living with their father, and Ed, the teacher/lover she wasn’t in love with.

Until Sunny was stopped.
Stopped by parents needing care.
Stopped by the dying, then the death of a beloved father.
Stopped by a deathbed promise to the dear father..
Stopped by devoted attention to a mother she had never liked very much.
Sunny was stopped by her mother’s disintegrating memory.
Sunny was stopped by her mother’s self-righteous demands.
Sunny was stopped by her own ever more predictable seizures.
Most of all, Sunny was stopped by a promise.

Then Sunny was stopped by Ed’s death.
Stopped by her mother’s having no idea how important Ed was to Sunny.
Because a nice lady doesn’t notice these things.
Sunny was stopped as she honored Ed’s funeral with a massive seizure,
Sunny was stopped by a heavy, dark gray envelope of a coma enveloping her body and mind.
Sunny was stopped by her son’s decision to pull whatever plugs sustained her flesh’s tenuous life.
He had my okay.
Sunny was stopped.
Sunny is gone.


Marsha Delaney Metcalfe lives in Richmond,Virginia. An interview she did of a self appointed male guru of what was then the new and burgeoning women’s sexuality movement she did was published in the Berkley Barb, and a short story of hers, “Leavetaking” appeared in Libera magazine. This was around 1970. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She then earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters degree in English from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she worked in the writing lab for three years. For several years she worked with
“The Flyer”, a Richmond women’s newsletter. She is presently working on her memoir. She lives with her long time companion. She has one child, Jon.

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