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Phone Calls on New Year’s Day | A Poem by Donal Mahoney

Jim and Joe had something in common.
They died at 80 going to the bathroom in
the middle of the night, as Walt discovered

when he tried to call them on New Year’s Day.
Jim’s widow said Jim had died from a stroke.
Joe’s widow said Joe had tripped on a rug,

banged his head on the commode,
died in intensive care a week later.
Jim and Joe had been mentors to Walt,

more like uncles really, after his dad died in Korea.
The next 50 years Walt stayed in touch with both men,
calling them on New Year’s Day from different cities.

Their advice helped Walt survive three job losses,
a foreclosure, two car wrecks and four divorces.
Last year Jim warned Walt growing old meant not

being able to put your underwear on standing up.
“I have to sit on the bed now,” Jim said.
That New Year’s Day, Walt called Joe and asked

if Jim was right and Joe confirmed that he too
had to sit on the bed to get his underwear on.
He told Walt every man has to sit at some point.

At 60, Walt could still put his underwear on
standing up but he had to hop on one leg
pogo-stick style to get the job done.

One time he almost fell but landed in a chair.
His fourth wife Belinda still laughs about it
even though they’re no longer married.

After hearing his mentors had died
going to the bathroom in the middle of the night,
Walt decided to take some precautions.

He installed night lights along the baseboards
going from the bedroom to the bathroom, began
eating salads and fruit instead of cheeseburgers,

browsed the Bible occasionally in the morning,
stopped drinking beer late into the night, now
sips wine coolers from jelly jars instead.


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