Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Life of a Poet: Dee Bisnette Writes From the Heart -- and Will Touch Yours.

Losing both legs in the Worcester, Mass. tornado of 1953 at age 7, living the good life for many happy years, and now as a 24-hour caretaker for her stroke-disabled husband Phil, Dee Bisnette,  knows the unfairness of life and all it demands as well as confers.

What's more unfair than losing your legs as a young girl and having your life turned upside down before it has even started? Dee met and married Phil as a teenager. Phil promised her mom that he would take care of her always and, boy, has he.

As the owner and "big guy" of his own successful construction firm, he made it possible in their 48 years of marriage for Dee to be a stay-at-home mom for their three children while living in beautiful homes and enjoying an upscale life. To some less fortunate, she was "the princess."

For details on the Worcester Tornado and Phil's Sept. 27, 2010 stroke at the age of 65, see an earlier story. 

Despite her long, happy life with Phil, the one and only love of her life, Dee has real anger with her care-taking life today and does not hide it. It comes out in her poetry and Phil reads it.

In a recent visit to their new, beautifully furnished condo, I told Phil how moved I was by the power and honesty of her two recent poems. As I spoke, Phil's eyes teared up. He may be confined to a wheelchair and have trouble speaking, but he hears and understands all -- including Dee's anger.

So, yes, in Dee's poetry, her anger is out in the open competing with love and she makes no apologies and Phil asks none. As always, he is supportive, still "taking care" of her as he promised her mom oh so many years ago.

It is this great and enduring love for each other that has made possible Dee's extraordinary, brutally honest poetry. Coming straight from her heart and life as a 24-hour caretaker for her wheelchair-bound husband, it's all there: the questions, the hurt, the anger, the passionate love and commitment to her husband.

Dee does not see herself as a poet. She has never submitted her work for publication. It is simply something that she must do. "My brain is always composing and I have to write it down," she says.

Dee recently sent two poems to family and a few friends. I was one of them. When I read the first one, I sent Dee this e-mail:

A beautiful, heartfelt poem. Thank you for sending it to us. Life has certainly handed you challenges, from the tornado and the loss of your legs as a young girl and now as a caretaker for Phil, and the poem helps us understand, at least to the extent that it is possible. You're doing great, kid.

In a later telephone conversation, I asked her how long it had taken her to write the poems. "About an hour each," she said matter-of-factly.

"An hour each! That's all?"

"Yes, it was all written in my head. I just had to put it down."

"How long editing and revising?"

"None. It was done."

I was dumbfounded. For a Patient's Progress story, I routinely spend far more time fixing mistakes and revising than I do writing. When I get a rare compliment on my own writing, I say, "Thanks, but I'm really a lousy writer." Pause. "But I'm the world's greatest rewriter."

Dee, in my humble opinion, is a gifted poet. Here is the first poem by Dee Bisnette:


I dreamed a dream when I was young of living by the sea.
The peace and the tranquility and beauty beckoned me.
For years I wished upon the stars to make those dreams come true
Then thankfully my wish was granted all because of you.
Your dream was not the same as mine but I thought that it would be
When you could feel the happiness oozing out of me.
I made our home a lovely place and welcomed those we knew
To share with us, to have some fun and make some memories too.
For sixteen years, the summers were as special as could be
Our friends and family, four grandkids all meant the world to me.
Then tragedy knocked on our door, we've done all that we can
And now the dream you made come true, is slipping from my hand.
As I arrived this rainy day to pack what's left inside
The yard ablaze with all we planted made me fill with pride
I knew this was the final time I'd see "Dee's Dream" above
So I walked in slowly room to room still feeling all the love.
I still could hear the laughter, see the little ones at play
My memories will fill my heart each and every day.
I'm grateful for the years we had, though I wish we'd had some more
I'll miss our neighbors oh so much as I walk back out the door
No one will ever love this home the way I loved it so
I'll just walk out and not look back and none will ever know
The sadness that I feel inside is oh so hard to bear
But I'll be brave and dig real deep for a smile I can wear
I wonder if there's still some time to find the peace I seek
I close the door to years of joy as a tear runs down my cheek.

For Dee, other people are a welcome break from loneliness and an endless to-do list. Dee and Phil are shown above at a recent memorial golf tournament and dinner for Mark Bisnette, Dee and Phil's nephew and my wife Barbara's son and my stepson. (Dee's sister-in-law Sue is in the background with her arms folded.) Mark, a 4-year Marine Corps veteran and Worcester police officer, died three years ago in a car accident. He was 38 and left a wife and four children.

Sending her second poem, Dee wrote:

Here is the one I wrote last week.....sounds a bit angry....but it's more bitter .......and sad for Phil. Lots of emotion I deal with every day......and if you don't live it, you don't get it......that's just how I feel and won't apologize for my feelings.......I'm sure you understand.
Soon I'll write a happy poem.....promise.


When Phil was struck down in the night so many months ago
The shock and horror that I felt, no one will ever know
The man we knew would take a "trip" to foreign land for sure
And none could know if he'd return as he once was before.
We all know now that "foreign" land is a place he must reside.
A disconnected, lonely soul, keeps all his pain inside

I watch him sit here day by day and can't help wonder how
A man so vibrant, full of life could end up lonely now.
In business he was "Mr Big" a name he wore with pride
When he was down and nearly "out" all friends came to his side
Yet now that he could use a lift from all who he has known
It's sad to say that "Mr. Big is very much alone.

I try to keep a "normal" life as much as time permits
My workload is enormous, it sends me into fits.
To care for Phil around the clock, sometimes without a break
Feels often like I'm so alone, it's more than I can take.
When asked how I can "do it all" I answer, "I don't know"
The truth is that I have no choice.....where else could he go?

I dare to say that if the same should happen in your life
You'd do the same, give selflessly to your husband or your wife.

It's not the selling of our homes or the lifestyle we have lost
It's not the constant vigilance that's come not without cost.
It's not the fact the phones don't ring, the invites sure are few
But that I know how Phil would be if this happened to you.

It would not matter how much time it took to get you well
He'd never be too busy to sit with you a spell.
For in his life of vibrant health he still found time to share
His wealth, some knowledge or a joke, yes "Mr. Big" was there

To those of you who might believe in Heaven after death
The questions asked at Heaven's Gate may take away your breath
You won't be asked what job you held or how much was your pay
Or how many hours that you spent working in a day
You won't be asked how big your home, how shiny was your car
You won't be asked your "handicap" or did you golf at par
Who you knew along the way would matter not up there
The question God would ask you though is, "how much did you care?"

For those of you who've kept in touch and made our lives worth while
I thank you deeply from my heart for allowing me to smile
for traveling on this road of life no one can know its end
Or how the road will twist and turn
But it's better with a friend.

After reading this, my wife Barbara sent the following E-mail to Dee:

Hi, Dee!
George had been so impressed by this poem that he just wanted me to read it -- and now I have! You are a great writer/poet who is able to put your deepest feelings into words. It is the best way for you to share the sadness and frustration of your "now" life. Yes, you can be angry; yes, you can be bitter; yes, you can be sad! It is your life and you are living it! If it helps to let it out by putting words to paper/type, then that is great! As you wrote: "I dare to say that if the same should happen in your life, You'd do the same, give selflessly to your husband or your wife." How true -- and anyone who reads this poem knows how scary that would be!!! Thanks for sharing -- a help for you, and a help for us, your readers! Keep it up!!!

With love, Barbara Ann

Thank you for these poems teaching us that, no matter the hardship and pain, we can still care, love and smile -- as you do.

With love, George

So long and keep moving.

                                   Amazon E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life; "A Long, Happy, Healthy Life," is about how to live the title every day; and "Unlove Story," Writing anonymously as "Elvis," a husband, dumped after 38 years of marriage, lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.

For the Nook:

A Beautiful Story
A Long, Happy, Healthy Life
I, Cadaver


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