I write that down.
She is cute and funny, even now.
But of course she is.
She calls it a sanctuary.
I write that down too.
My mom is working so hard
On making this place beautiful.
She is not here.
But this is one of her great gifts, and my grandma
who thought she was too young to be called a grandma
when she became one, receives it.
We’ve had the room to ourselves this afternoon.
My brother goes on a hunt to buy the right pudding.
Pudding has been important these last years, especially rice pudding.
She puts her tablet of potassium in it, takes a spoonful and swallows
I don’t want to forget this, or the smell of the insulin,
The prick, and flicker, and number, and needle, and swab,
And waiting long enough…
I don’t want to forget this past new year’s, days before
her 82nd birthday —she’d hate that I’m telling you her age,
When she was suddenly so tired that she couldn’t
Sit up to watch the fireworks she taught me to savor.
And I did savor them, scared.
In the end, she saw a few, and after the insulin,
She breathed in her sleep.
I breathed in relief.
I sit with just the sound and her in the magic-room.
Her aliveness looming, always.
When she wakes up, it is early evening,
We eat a morning bun together.
The last thing we share is sweet.
And I think of the tradition of putting honey on a slate of the alef-bet because
Learning should be sweet.
I do her nails, that nude-creamy-pink, maybe the one called passion
Maybe the one called bubble gum.
At times I hope I am not as vain as she is.
Now I’m just in awe of the beauty of her hands.
I don’t want to forget the shape of her fingers, or her nails.
I write that down.
I don’t want to forget her combination of mandarin oranges
And yogurt that has always seemed odd to me,
Her love of cottage cheese, which has always seemed gross to me.
But maybe I’ll try these things now.
Or Earl Grey Tea—which, why, of all the teas.
She keeps it in great supply, both decaf and regular.
Most days, she has one cup with milk, another later without.
Occasionally she’ll ask one of us to bring tea up to her
Before she comes down.
I treasure this—making her tea or coffee, which she now likes having and
holding, more than drinking.
It matters that her pjs are red with little white hearts.
I don’t really like them.
Of all her remarkable outfits, this unremarkable one
Is now the image I come back to most.
They remind me of Valentine’s Day and Hallmark cards.
She likes things with hearts.
Two days ago, my mom took notes on a post-it
On the phone with a nurse.
When she got off and read from it,
All the places the tumors had spread,
Places of the body I’m not even sure I could point to,
She said, I’m worried I won’t have much time to enjoy my magic-room.
We were all together—one of us for each side of the bed.
I held on to her leg.
Now it is just us and the sanctuary.
I grab something out of a bin that feels sterile.
A break from the wooden panels with engravings of leaves
And flowers, the teal comforter, time.
I help her take the
Lower her down.
Her stubbornness has kept her alive, we often say.
And though she is naked with me now, she still resists.
She doesn’t let me make the landing soft.
Crashes just a little.
It’s not that I see more of her body than I ever have before.
I have seen all of it.
For a moment, fully clothed, I am naked with her.
I don’t want this to be my last memory of you
but in a way it’s kind of beautiful.
Everything was fast, this, I heard slow.
We are not devastated, somehow, we praise.
Put the layers back on again.
I help her into the bed that now rests where her dining room
Table has for 40-something years.
I ask if she needs water.
She is done with 7UP for the day.
She says, no, go—
My grip on something was tight, but I held nothing close.
I want to bring the water anyway.
I grab my bag, push the back door of her sanctuary
Not even fully looking at her, or fully looking,
But because of angles and the magic-room setup
I can’t see her whole face.
Four days later, she is dying here, while I am in class learning.
And the learning is sweet.
I am learning how to read
structure in music,
And, in it, there’s a sanctuary.
I had imagined all of us there.
One for each side of the bed.
Maybe, I would hold her leg
But in a way, it’s kind of beautiful.
I write that down.