The worst of all days was the day Momma died
though to be honest it was a relief because the
years of smoking had taken a toll, even though
she denied she’d had even a puff since she and
Daddy quit together when the Surgeon General
said it was bad for their health back in the 60’s.
There was also heart disease and TIA’s, which,
though small, were tectonic in shifting the vast
contents of her brain, separating hemispheres
so she forgot that she still smoked, but then the
forgetting became routine, so that just now and
back then slipped away with equivalent speed.
She forgot that she had children and children’s
children, forgot that the man sleeping nearby
was her husband, and then she forgot how to
eat and had to be coaxed like a toddler to try a
bite which she’d hold between teeth, clenching
breakfast like a grizzled dog worrying a new bone.
But the forgetting that was worst of all, besides
our faces and names, was the brilliance of her
wit and how her words glittered like jewels cut
so each facet captured her genius, and yet she’d
toss them off like feathers from a bird in flight,
sure there was more from whence those came.
When that was gone the laughter went and joy
withdrew; from the head back and eyes streaming
pealing of the bells to a demure hand-over-mouth
titter, the music of mirth ceased its ringing and that
was when the mother I loved departed, and the
blank-faced, wordless woman arrived.
On the day her body stopped the parody of life,
I hauled her from the tangle of sheets before the
family saw how she’d thrashed her way loose,
straightened her up, tucked her in, smoothed
her hair and closed her eyes, first one and then
the other, then the first again, and again the other.
She popped them open in an alternating wink
that made me throw back the covers and press
my ear to her quiet heart; clutch her hand till it
grew cold, then look to the air and ask that
she cooperate, please, as this display of her
recovered humor would not be amusing just now.