Pushing Up

Pushing Up


Daisies, clay potted, white whorled, 

yellow centered, crowd the western

windowsills in Uncle Jack’s room

in the rehabilitation clinic.  No sooner


do we hug in greeting than he flops,

belly down, onto a plush red rug

and starts in on his daily regimen of push-

ups as if he were at home and healthy.


Jack was ever fond of boasting that

he’d always be able to do as many

repetitions daily as his age, and was

determined to show me even here


with the nurse, impatient, arms akimbo,

waiting outside the glass door to take

his blood pressure.  I told him to give it

a rest.  He didn’t need to prove anything.


I was a believer.  But stubborn

as ever, he plunged ahead, up

and down.  After 70, Jack stood up

declaring, “Nature calls.”  He was back


in 5 minutes, as he vowed, to wrap up

the last 15 push-ups while the nurse,

tapping her toe, had a look that said,

“Give me a break already.”  The setting


sun cast daisy shadows on his back.

He didn’t break a sweat but grimaced

once or twice.   The nurse and I offered

up a round of applause.  He smiled.


A year later, my cousin Clara called

to tell me her dad was at home

in a coma secondary to a stroke and

I might want to think about a visit.


He was flat on his back, eyes vacant,

hands outside the blanket, palms

pressing down against the mattress,

tensing and releasing and tensing.



I said, “Jack, enough already.  I don’t

need convincing.  I know you can do 86.

Just snap out of this thing.”  I stayed

overnight.  In the morning, I patted


his limp hands and kissed his forehead

before heading back home.  Clara

said she and her mom would keep me

posted.  A week later he was gone.


I sent daisies.  The day after the funeral,

pushing 60, I pledged to begin, in honor

of Jack, yet another exercise regimen,

maybe even a few push-ups,


not that I could hope to compete.

It would simply be a token gesture

of keeping his memory alive before I go

pushing up my own daisies.



Philip Wexler


Philip Wexler has over 200 magazine poem credits.  His full-length poetry collections include The Sad Parade (prose poems), and The Burning Moustache, both published by Adelaide Books, The Lesser Light (Finishing Line Press), With Something Like Hope (Silver Bow Publishing) and I Would be the Purple (Kelsay Books).  He also hosts Words out Loud, a hybrid in-person and remote monthly spoken word series in the Washington, DC area.

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