Monthly Archives: March 2020

On My Father’s Fifth Yahrzeit

I’m making your favorite dinner. Red, green,
white. It’s like a Christmas card. Tomatoes
and peppers. Onions, chopped coarse and scattered
over a field of red like white beads. Flecks
of color from peppers. Handfuls of spice.
Simmering all together, the way we
simmered and softened in summer’s too high
heat, boiling over the tall pot’s edges.
While cooking, I fret over the house; it’s
falling apart. The fridge door is broken.
You’d know how to fix it, but I’ve taped it
together with duct tape, some neon pink,
some zebra striped. The toilet doesn’t flush
properly. You’d know how to fix that, too.
I know how, but like you, I have bad knees,
and like you at the end, am just too old
and broken to make it all the way down
to the floor and still expect to get back
up. Yeah, no. So the toilet doesn’t work.
They told me how you fell, and broke, and tried
to drag yourself onto your feet again
clinging to the bathroom doorknob until
the knob bent, and the door came loose, and you
fell again, and passed out from the pain. They
found you a couple days later. That
wasn’t how you died, just a beginning
of the end, one of many. If I try
to choose just one beginning for the end,
I always find myself going further
and further back in time, and finally
give up, saying beginnings are the end.
They say we can’t escape our past, it comes
to find us, over and over again
throughout our lives. I don’t know the stories
you carried in silence, apparently
at ease in your favorite chair, not speaking.
I know some of my mother’s secrets. Some
of my own. I know how they swell inside
as we walk through life, finding as life shrinks
our secrets don’t, but grow, and become more
of us, infiltrating, grabbing onto
bits of life around us and pulling them
either into and through us or into
the stories we don’t tell. I believe that’s
what makes our death a blessing or a curse,
at least in part. Now, we are taught to ask,
“What happened to you?” That’s not what people
used to ask. Neighbors. Coworkers. We said,
“Why did you do that?” “Why do you do such
terrible/wonderful things?” What were you
thinking?” Or we asked nothing, just blamed. Or
praised. Either way, it was a fiction, and
it was real. As real as the comfort of
your daily rosary, the beads shifting
in your hands, over and over, the prayers
a shield and a gift. I light a candle
you would never have lit, and murmur prayers
you never learned, and remember you as
a puzzle, with pieces missing. This is
as it should be. It is what it is. We
are what we are. Or were. Or will be. Amen.