Eleven days and nights of caretaking her
For my dad, who’s on a trip.
I haven’t touched her this much since I was a child.
Steering her thin arms with their
Cool, white, wobbly skin,
Anchoring my hand to the only solid part of her left:
The hips and lower back,
Disentangling her clutching fingers from straps and pieces of clothing,
Pulling her pants up the haunches with their empty hanging sacks of skin.
I see things I remember about
From when I was a child:
A mole on her lower back,
The way her thin hair streaks against the base of her skull when
Pulling a shirt over her head,
The knuckle-knobs on her hands.
We have the same hands:
Long narrow fingers,
Blue vein tubes leading into the wrists.
I used to press on her hand veins when I was a child
When I was holding her hand.
But at a certain age,
10 or 11 probably,
I didn’t want to
Or be touched by her
If I ever handed her something and her fingers,
Would brush against the top of my hand,
I would wipe off her touch on my pant leg.
Here I am,
She is easy, as Alzheimer’s patients go.
She is light enough to lift,
And gentle, agreeable, trusting, quiet.
(I am sure I will not be so easy if my mind goes.
I will be heavy and contrary and paranoid and I will
Screech nonsense constantly.)
It’s been hard.
A dependent child
Seems like a worthwhile investment of energy.
They’re the future of the world, after all.
Investing energy in an elderly dependent parent …
They’re at the end.
It’s just comfort now.
What’s the return?
(The return is for me in the giving, I suppose.
Another tough-love parental gift.)
Giving comfort doesn’t come naturally to me.
I would make an efficient,
Perhaps harsh nurse.
The kind a sick person would cringe at,
The kind who would jerk an injured limb,
Or scrub a wound too hard.
So not only am I touching
The maternal body I avoided for 25 years,
But I’m trying to be
Yesterday was hard.
She spilled her cereal, juice and milk
On her pants and the floor,
Lifting the bird-like body in and out of the car.
Mutterings and delusions.
She messed up my plans.
I wanted to go to both
And a 12-step meeting.
But I could only choose one.
This caregiver got one hour off duty.
And driving to yoga,
Alone in the car, I thought,
“You know how people say they won’t want to be a burden to their children?
Well, Mom, you’re a burden.”
But at the end of class,
Sweat-bathed and lying on my mat,
I started crying silently,
My tears mixing with the sweat rolling down my temples into my ears.
Laying her into bed,
I looked into her eyes and said,
“I love you, Mom.”
And her blue eyes focused for a moment and she said,
“I love you, too too.”
And I said, “I miss you.”
And she closed her eyes.