She was fifty-five when you were born. Hers is the first face you conjure at dawn when you bow your head to your clasped hands. Hers is the scent that you tracked through a Hallmark card store until you found the old lady wearing it, bent over the Get Well cards, who looked up when you started to cry. Hers are the dresses, old and flowered and heavy polyester and unlaundered, that you keep tied up tight in a white plastic bag on a shelf in your closet, that you sometimes untie and bury your nose in. She is the one who taught you how to fold a towel the right way. She is the one who could wring a chicken’s neck and tat a doily and scrub a floor and grade 45 English compositions all in the same evening. Hers was the pantry in which you slept at Christmas, surrounded by tin after tin of her cookies. Hers is the tiny nose that turned bright red the one time she drank a sip of Champagne. She is the one who swayed in the kitchen to the sounds of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. She is the one who played the tiny electric organ with the choose-your-own background accompaniment. It was she who took you to Dairy Queen every night when you visited for that week in the summer, and it was she who asked you if you were sure that one little cone was enough, and didn’t you want a sundae at least? She was the one who gave you fourths on everything. On her coffee table was a blue glass bowl full of butterscotch candies. She laughed and laughed when Arthur tossed his spitballs at the dinner table. She had a dog named Jody. She put reflecting balls in her flower gardens. She is the one who said Semi-gloss, that’s what you want, because you can wash it with a sponge. She wrote you hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of letters, all of which you still have, overflowing from boxes and bags in your basement. She is the one you always replied to. She is the one who that one day when you went to visit her could not, suddenly, make you dinner anymore. She is the one you pushed in the wheelchair. She is the one who wrote in shaky handwriting What a happy life we had together, but it wasn’t long enough. She is the one you talk to every day in your mind. Hers is the unmistakable scent you smelled the day you needed her so badly and you walked into your friend’s house and stopped short, overcome, but your friend smelled nothing. She is the one who found no faults in you. Hers were the hands you held, knotted and gnarled with the arthritis that she swore didn’t hurt. She is the one that you, phone hater, called once a week. It was to her that you said It’s okay, you can go, you don’t have to hold on anymore when your mother held the phone to her ear that last day, and then you hung up and made that sound you had never heard yourself make. It was her eulogy you wrote and read in that sun-streaked church after Oatie sang Danny Boy. Her name is the answer to every one of your computer security questions. She is the only person in this world about whom you have not one, single, regret.
Beautiful–thank you for sharing such close things.