Mom, 97, fell between
Christmas and New Years,
breaking her hip.
She’s been in the assisted living
memory care ward two years now.
Before the tumble when I use
to visit she’d be dozing off
in the common room, where
the electric log in a faux fireplace
never burns but still glows red,
any comfort given incidental.
When I gently touched
her boney arm, her shiny eyes
opened. She’d exclaim, Timothy.
Today she’s in the new wheel chair,
with the high back so her neck stays straight,
legs immobile in braces, knees unbent,
long scar like a streak of tar on her shin,
the mark of the fall from the last time
she tried to stand. The doctor said
the fracture would heal but warned
the anesthesia could exacerbate her dementia
long after the operation, maybe forever.
She’s wide awake, reading the paper,
the daily newspaper, the actual paper,
that celebrated Thanksgiving by killing
the jobs of a third of its staff, and
like so many others, is rumored to close.
Mom’s now the only person
I know who regularly reads
news that’s not online.
Death lurks here,
diligent yet patient.
In less than a glimpse
I see his shadow fade
quickly down the hall.
There’s light in mom’s eyes,
but no bright twinkle,
she asks, do I know you?
You don’t know me?
She shakes her head,
bewilderment flushing her face.
She’s confused but glad.
Leaning into her good ear
I say, I am your son, Timothy.
You know my son Timothy?
I am Timothy. At least she laughs
at how her mind works in this new way,
elliptical bends she cannot trace.
She knows she has a son who is me,
she hasn’t forgotten my name, but
the fact I am here and I am he
is as incomprehensible as rain or sky
—just a fact that’s always there,
any understanding irrelevant to its existence,
which is when I wonder if death
just floated through the adjacent room.
Those gaps in her thoughts, the curves
to nowhere may be him waiting for
the pause that lasts long enough
for an artery to burst or the lungs to petrify
or another cellular disruption and whatever
glisten in her eyes dims completely.
She gazes at the paper again, licking her index finger
to turn the pages. Obits, comics, crossword…
she’s not reading, not even remembering reading,
she’s remembering the act of reading the paper,
a series of daily gestures used to learn
about the world outside our home.
I remember as a teenager thinking
the news was just increments of time,
headlines telling us when and
where we are in history,
what we knew now was
meaningless compared to truths
only apparent long after we
and what we know are gone.
As an adult, I realized
no truths matter as much
as the moment now,
because love can’t be
somewhere other than here.
I am your son, Timothy.
The mists in her mind thin
and she grins, you cannot be my son,
Timothy is much younger,
which makes me laugh then fog billows
quickly accumulating density and
any further acknowledgement
is out of the question.
So I show her my driver’s license.
I renewed last year, the picture’s new.
She looks at the card, still unsure,
you’re my Timothy? She’s shrugging,
still not understanding. I take
back the license and hold her hand.
She whispers, I’m so happy to see you.
Before I go she’ll again ask who I am,
forgetting my visit even before
the visit ends, but right now
she knows who I am, she knows I’m here.
Love not merely recalled, the silver
tether stretching without snapping.
Copyright held by author/2017