When Dad died, my brother and I
cleaned the basement,
handing off the chapters of forty years
to cousins who played with us so long ago—
Hide & Seek in those same dark corners
from where we now pulled old tools and
cans of long-dried-up paint.
The dumpster we rented filled quickly with
that stuff Dad thought he would need,
but which he, nor we, never did.
Mom, upstairs, busy remembering in 11 rooms
still filled to bursting with her own and the together life
of her and Dad.
Every kitchen drawer laden with knives, spoons,
measuring cups, spatulas, and tools that we looked at over the years
never knowing what/how/why they were owned by her/ kept by her/
or ever even used by her in the quiet, private preparations
of obscure and intricate recipes involving ham,
or pink cakes with blue icing,
or any of a green-to-red rainbow of jams and jellies.
Even the stairwell between the kitchen and second floor was filled
with cake pans, Jello molds, and trays for everything that she needed
carried, moved, transported from her kitchen
to the tables of others.
(“Is this for here?” we had learned to ask as children, seeing dozens of cookies
cooling on the table after arriving home from school, and learning to deal with
the answer which came too often: “No, these are for church” or some wedding,
or some party, or somebody whose name we didn’t know and didn’t want to
know who was going to pay Mom for all these cookies, leaving my brother and
me with a few broken ones, or none.)
Later, once then twice,
in two years then three years,
we would move and cull more;
then move farther and cull further.
First, it was out of the upstairs,
then down to just three rooms,
then out of the house altogether when Mom
remembered the cakes but not how to make them.
And then she forgot, most of the time, about the cakes themselves.
And here we are now too few and too many years later,
hollering, my brother and I, “Mom! Mom!”
…not so she will know we are home from school,
…not so that she would come and see the pile of blocks we have built ten high
on the linoleum floor of the dining room,
…not so that we can show her the fish we caught
or the grandkids we are bringing home for her and Grandpa to see,
This time we’re hollering “Mom! Mom!”, first me, then my brother,
we’re hollering “Mom! Mom!” so that she will know that we are beside her
and so that she will know—somehow, please God—through
the defilement of Alzheimers
that she is going
(I’ve written in the past about this journey with my mom: