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September 13, 2007

The Manny

The "Manny"

Andrea Nakayama always imagined her 30s would be the time in her life when everything would fall perfectly into place. And indeed, everything had - at least for a while. She had a successful career, was married to the love of her life, Isamu, and was ecstatic when she learned she was pregnant. But just weeks into Andrea's pregnancy, Isamu developed an excruciating headache. They couldn't have imagined what the doctors would soon tell them: that Isamu had stage 4 brain cancer. Isamu defied the odds long enough to see their son, Gilbert, born. But Isamu had become so sick that he couldn't care for himself, let alone their child.

Andrea and Isamu turned to a nanny named Matthew Dickman, who ended up being much more than a babysitter for Gilbert. Matthew became a friend to Isamu, as well as a pillar of stability for Andrea as she tried to care for both her growing child and dying husband. In the end, Matthew became part of the family.

Dick talks with Andrea and Matthew about their friendship.

Poems Matthew Dickman read on the show:


If the snow does not fall

outside the hospital window

then cherry blossom

If the body does not float

above the hospital bed

then saline drip

Your kingdom drops away

from you like your very own

face, sloped. A king

transformed into a mountain.
Show us your brain

a blackberry

Show us your tumor

a lagoon

Heaven is a cup of teeth,

it shines. What island have we

washed upon where a man

must live in the pit of his own body
sending notes

to the rest of us on earth?
Christ walks down the hall. If

the snow does not fall outside

the sanatorium window

then rain drop

Christ with his fists dragging

and your name locked inside

His mouth.

If the body does not float above

the sanatorium bed

then electric shock-

a body coming down the wild hall forever.

And if cotton then gauze-

a young surgeon holding your brain

in his hands and chanting

over it-

the cerebral cortex

the cerebellum glowing

forever and ever amen

If not that story then this:

Lift the pillars of heaven off our tired shoulders.

If death then skyscraper.

Show us the Pleiades

Show us the Pleiades


outside the hospice window.


When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla  
you must count yourself lucky.

You must offer her what's left

of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish

you must put aside

and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,

her eyes moving from the clock

to the television and back again.

I am not afraid. She has been here before

and now I can recognize her gait

as she approaches the house.

Some nights, when I know she's coming,

I unlock the door, lie down on my back,

and count her steps

from the street to the porch.

Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,

tells me to write down

everyone I have ever known

and we separate them between the living and the dead

so she can pick each name at random.

I play her favorite Willie Nelson album

because she misses Texas

but I don't ask why.

She hums a little,

the way my brother does when he gardens.

We sit for an hour

while she tells me how unreasonable I've been,

taking down the pictures of my family,

not writing, refusing to shower,

staring too hard at girls younger than my sister.

Eventually she puts one of her heavy

purple arms around me, leans

her head against mine,

and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic.

So I tell her,

things are feeling romantic.

She pulls another name, this time

from the dead

and turns to me in that way that parents do

so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something.

Romantic? She says,

reading the name out loud, slowly

so I am aware of each syllable,

each consonant resembling a swollen arm, the collapsed ear,

a mouth full of teeth, each vowel

wrapping around the bones like new muscle,

the sound of that person's body

and how reckless it is,

how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.

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