Lines Written After a Conversation With My Mother

She says she didn't hit him with the umbrella
like they say. She says she knows
the difference between hit and tap.
It was just a tap - get his attention -
just wanted him to BE there. She says
she hates it when he just stares at her, through her.

She says she didn't shake the wheelchair until
he almost tumbled to the floor. It was just that
he was looking at her like her name
was right there on the tip of his tongue,
but he couldn't put name to face.
She says she just held his shoulders trying to get him
to say something, anything that would make sense.
It's none of their business anyway, she says.
She his wife. Almost sixty years of it -
always doing what he told her -
doing what she could to make him happy.
They say he might not know her now.
Of course he KNOWS me, she says. Why
wouldn't he know me? Tell me. Why?

They say they'll report her if she
doesn't stop the hitting, she says.
What am I supposed to do? Sit there
with my hands in my lap? Fold my hands,
watch him slip further and deeper into that
dark place where he won't let me go?
Tell me. What am I supposed to do?
Sit and rock, watch T.V. and not
ask him, like I always do, the name of the girl
that turns the letters on our favorite show
or does he want his sandwich with bread or toast -
the window open or closed? Or
does he still love me after all these years?

She says she holds his hand when he's asleep
until the bus comes to take her home.
He won't let go, sometimes, she says.
She always kisses him goodbye...
What else is she supposed to do?

Jerry Dreesen
Sept. 1994