Memento to Myself
For the first time in months, Mom
visited me. My siblings and I sat
in a bright room, planning our summer
vacation. She wanted to come along,
and I reminded her she was
dead. She hugged me anyway.
For years, I kept a journal, writing
detailed entries each day and
keeping cribbed shorthand for entries
to write later, when I fell behind.
Sometimes, though, I chose not
to write. The ugly, embarrassing,
frightening, I left out so that
I might forget them.
I remember two male friends in
an ugly argument, one throwing
red Kool-Aid in the other's face. My
journal did not record the events
leading to this moment. Years later,
I asked a friend why. Befuddled,
he said, "He'd insulted you." I don't
remember. But I will never forget
the other friend sitting calmly
as the red dripped down his face.
Sorting my mother's things, an
exercise in remembrance. Antiques
and keepsakes, scarred by cat-
scratch, embedded with litter scent.
Even those sent to the auctioneer,
looking like detritus washed up
on a far island. We stow
away our feelings, but anger
and despair wash over my sister
and me. Awash in the house that was
once our home.
My sister asked me how to talk
to her small children about Mom's
fate. She wants to teach them, to
help them avoid it. But now, I
realize even my Pop-Pop could see
what would come, selling off
so many family antiques
instead of passing them on. "You'll
only ruin them," he'd told Mom.
I could choose to forget. Could excise
the end of this story, remember
only the artist, the strong funny woman
I admire. Except I have begun teaching
my 5-year-old boy about writing
stories. "Something bad
must happen," I tell him. "The main
character must find a way to cope.
You must have an ending."
Mom's spectral arms felt warm,
comforting and real. Perhaps
she visited me to remind me
that I must carry on, pondering
all these things in my heart.