In Camelot!

“In short, there's simply not a more congenial spot for happily-ever-aftering than here in Camelot!”

Richard Burton's commanding voice enchants me as I revisit the lilting theme of “Camelot.” My memories unwind with the melody and I hear my mother tell me that we are on borrowed time with my father, that we are living Camelot days. 

“Camelot! By order, summer lingers through September in Camelot.”

Flattening myself against the wall and halting my breath so as to not give away my hiding place, I overhear my mother on the phone. My father went into cardiac arrest coming out of open heart surgery. The doctors re-started his heart, but had cracked his sternum and ribs in the effort. He was only 49 and in 1969, by-pass surgery was cutting edge, even at state-of-the-art hospitals like John's Hopkins in Baltimore. He was in the hospital for thirty-one days; I was eight years old. 

“If ever I would leave you, how could it be in spring-time?
Knowing how in spring I'm bewitched by you so?”

“His lips are turning blue!” My father lay dying as we listened to my brother's emergency radio scanner tell us the ambulance was lost. New roads, new neighborhood, lost crew, frantic attempts at CPR, and then stillness at the arrival of the ambulance and its crew. The break-neck car ride behind the ambulance, being ushered into a room and knowing what was to follow, “I'm sorry, he did not make it. We tried.” He was fifty-four, I was thirteen; it was spring. Camelot disintegrated.

Wrenching deep sobs erupt from my mother as she sits at her piano. Her fingers create keening wails as they fall on the keys. Absent are the light skipping notes, now the hammer strikes evoke images of desolation and darkness. Her heart broken, her prince absconded by Lady Death. 

Helpless, frightened, empathic, overwhelmed by the stark face of grief, I felt her pain layering on my own, suppressing and compressing parts of my heart into silence. I wanted to absorb her pain and see her eyes dance again as they had when she and my father had teased each other in the kitchen. 

Hands gnarled by arthritis caged her release in worn ivory keys, her sorrow a haunting melody that could be heard in the silence until her own death. I know that haunting melody, my son now lies in the same graveyard as my mother, father, and brother. Their merry songs of life silenced.

Yet, I the hear the melody of Camelot fierce and insistent in my heart.

“Camelot! By order, summer lingers through September in Camelot.”

I only have this moment, this breath, how shall I spend this gift? Each breath is Camelot, alive with magic. Father, mother, brother, and son, can I free their melodies in my heart, can I bear the searing pain of life re-awakening with their song? I can, in Camelot.


Mount Airy, MD

I am a writer, a wife, a mother, and a bereaved mother. And I have discovered a passion for photography, I find a complimentary connection between capturing life in ten minutes and capturing a shot in a fraction of a second.

Terri JacksonComment