The End, Beginning

All of my getting-me-to-here
years, plus the place in which those
years went by, have left no trace
upon your memory. You even
casually mused recently how
we would ferry your ashes one
day to England where, you said,
Dad lay alone in a cemetery plot
for two. As if a man who had never
traveled farther than California
had on a whim hoisted himself
from his hospice bed years ago and
jetted across the Atlantic to die there.
But I didn’t press the issue much.
You seemed pleased enough to
know that he was somewhere
underground in some distance
or other, waiting for you.

The highlight of our visits now almost
always comes when I pull out the
weathered bronzy tome of your
oldest photo scrapbook, the fabric
on the cover the texture of turn-of-
the-century upholstery—the worn
nap of it nubby and cozy, like the
faux pelt of an old stuffed rabbit
you might have cuddled as a child.
Touching it, your faded eyes focus,
you say, “Oh!” as if heralding a
friend you haven’t seen in years,
the beloved one longed-for and
finally returned.  We open
it together, I can feel the weight of
you next to me shift and sigh
as you settle in, one of your
hands—the right one, probably,
with its inward-curving index
finger—patting me fondly
(though, truth be told, a
trifle vaguely, as one might
pat a friendly talking dog.)

Your favorites, I think, are
mine, too—the ones of you
and Dad on your first date
in 1939 to nearby Racine,
Wisconsin, in a car
Dad borrowed from a friend.
I have never tired of these
frozen sepia moments from
a time I can only visit late
night on Turner Classics–
the classy pleats of your
demure-length white skirt,
the sharp vertical creases
and starched bottom cuffs of
Dad’s Sunday trousers—his
wide and handsome grin next
to your more decorous, closed-
lipped smile, the tiniest dip of your
carefully coiffed chestnut head
like a little ghost foretelling this
one, ages later, listing fragile near
my shoulder—that lustrous
chestnut now a silvery halo
shot through with the light
of a thousand
unforgettable
long-departed
suns.

for my mother, 1921-2016