U-Turns expressed in Word Music-from motorcycle to birth


As you already know, it was my practice to write a poem for each newborn grandchild. This birth u-turn followed by several years a nearly disastrous u-turn that happened to this child’s father-my middle son.

It was a Sunday in early summer. I was home recuperating from surgery when the phone rang. It was my Dad calling to let me know that there had been a motorcycle accident and Jamie had a broken leg. He put the doctor on and the broken leg turned into something much worse. Jamie had been crushed between his bike and the car. His lungs were collapsing and his hip was broken. Further the doctors were concerned that he wouldn’t live until morning. We needed to get there right away. I explained that I was just home from the hospital after major surgery but we’d get there somehow.   Jamie’s Dad arrived home from church all cheerful telling me that they’d sent the flowers from the service home with him. Leaning against the kitchen door for support I told him the news. And his day turned around just like mine had a few moments earlier. He made a bed for me in the back of the car and off we went.

After the way too long 3-hour drive, we arrived at the hospital and they wheel-chaired me back to ICU.  There was Jamie moaning with pain and looking horrible. The surgeon took us to view the x-rays. His hip and femur were shattered. The surgeon would have to use plates and pins and hope that he could get all the pieces back together. The ‘good’ news was that this was a trauma center for the region and this doctor was used to putting broken bodies back together. A pulmonary doctor would come to work on the lungs. Jamie was uninsured so the hospital walked us through getting him on Medicaid. I’m amazed even now that I somehow understood the directions and actually successfully executed them, nothing like a whole gob of adrenaline to focus the mind with laser like efficiency.

The nurses made me a bed in the waiting room but no sleep happened. Hours followed, we talked, we listened to the conversation of others and, we heard their hopes and the pain that brought them here to wait like us. Jamie’s soon to be x-girlfriend drank through her cooler of beer. At last Jamie was out of surgery and back in ICU. He was in agony tossing in his bed muttering, “Shoot me. Somebody shoot me.” He had been a USS swimmer and I had participated in a workshop on using techniques to calm your nerves before a big race. (Think bio-feedback without a machine. You use your mind.) I stood by his bed repeating words to help him relax a bit, visualize a place without pain and hopefully sleep. My mantra was expressed in the following poem.

a lullaby in ICU

long and slow

let it go

like a body

floats on water

deep and slow

sleep sleep

while all the pieces knit

no mother   I’ll dream

of writhing on the street

long and slow

let it go

I will dream

while you sleep

see your leg

twig between

car and bike

shattered      falling

shoot me somebody shoot me

so the pain will stop

breathe deep

long and slow

go to sleep

mother  how can you stand

to watch

long and slow

let it go

let it go

that’s what

mothers do

Janice DeRuiter

After the surgery and in the midst of my lullaby, the nurse on duty in ICU made us go home. It was her expressed opinion that Jamie was too old to need his mother. “But give me just a few more minutes and I’ll have him asleep.” “No you have to leave now,” was the reply.  In the next room was an older woman who suffered a stroke. Who was she calling for? Her mother.

I’m afraid I was less than gracious the next morning. Jamie explained that his night had been so horrible that he felt he needed to apologize to the nurse for keeping her on her feet all night. “Oh no you don’t. No way she deserves whatever she got.” (There went my sweet motherly image right down the tubes.) Fortunately having listened to my motherly admonitions of polite behavior better than I had, Jamie had already apologized.

Unfortunately there are more horrors to this tale but I’ll spare you the long litany. Jamie recovered. His injured leg is shorter than the other but he can walk. When the surgeon went to remove all the plates and screws, Jamie went into anaphylactic shock so they stitched him back up and his bionic plating remains a part of him.  Unfortunately this makes airport security a horrible experience. He’s alive and walking and in great shape. You won’t hear me complaining. (However, you probably heard him after his last security experience.)

It wasn’t until I started thinking about this series on U-Turns that I realized I had used the music of words to write my poem for Jamie’s first-born son.

I tend to find poems from the imagery of the moment and this one was born because we were at dinner before going to the symphony when I called to check on how the mother-to-be was doing. As we had suspected, she had gone into labor. We went into Davies Symphony hall and realized we couldn’t stay. Sure this could take hours but who can miss a birth for music you can hear again? Side note as luck would have it the violin soloist we were to hear that night has never returned to San Francisco. I would leave again.


for Jeremy Born September 4, 1997

First Movement –

Quiet and intense, a bow strokes

a cello and it sounds in the small

room where we hear a baby

sailing on an ocean of love.

All the cellos sing, all other

Instruments seem unreal.

Second Movement –


His Father’s stroking finger, quiets

the first cries, a baby adjusting

to lights, hunger, cold.

The violin’s melodic voice begins.

Quiet-tempered boy curious, eyes

turn toward each entering voice.

Third Movement —


A baby is an entire

symphony, a gala,

soft skin of violin bow,

percussive cry,

kicking feet a muted mallet,

all these pull through into soaring

flutes and clarinets,

at last the quiet baby’s stare,

the echoing heart of heaven.

janice de ruiter

After the loud and insistent toddler era, this child did prove to be a quiet, curious boy.  The joy of his birth echoes now in the thrill of watching him grow to be a young man. Music stays as he plays his trombone.

About Winding Stream Press

Janice DeRuiter Eskridge, M.F.A. is a poet who worked for over a decade as a poet-teacher for California Poets in the Schools. Helen Shoemaker, Ph.D. L.M.F.T. is a university professor who teaches in the areas of child development and counseling. She is also a therapist in private practice.
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1 Response to U-Turns expressed in Word Music-from motorcycle to birth

  1. I am taken by the way you can weave a story around a poem…or is it the other way around? Either way, I am glad it all turned out so right.


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