Today would have been my mother's 101st birthday, had she not died in her sleep seven years ago. Here's a couple of poems I wrote about her. "Dream World" was published three years ago in the online magazine, "Mamazine."
Happy Birthday, Hilda! I hope you’re having a better time of it wherever you may be.
I look toward my mother's bed
in its sunny spot by the window.
Her young nurse is smiling.
So is mother.
She lies in a blue hospital gown
printed with triangles, squares and circles
in shades of gray, burgundy and dark blue.
Her skin looks healthy.
Her thin, white hair brushed off her face.
After the nurse leaves, she looks at me
with wide eyes and asks,
"Do you want to play bridge? We need a fourth."
"I haven’t played in years," I say
She accepts that excuse
and points her long painted nails
to two or three other people
she imagines in the room.
"They will play," she says.
I stroke her damp forehead,
holding her bony hand bruised from the needles
that had been stuck into it.
I brush my fingers down her white, silky legs,
now devoid of hair.
"Do I look a mess?" she asks.
The sun casts a shadow across her bed.
"No, you look wonderful," I say.
She smiles at me, not minding
that her mouth has no bottom dentures,
and brags how her cousins
tell her how good she looks
and how well-dressed she is.
Even here with her gown hiked up to her diaper,
I try to pull her gown down
but she keeps grabbing it.
I cover her with a sheet,
and sit down to watch her play cards.
"Six spades," she proclaims,
"Play out." I play out.
Using her night gown as her bridge hand,
she tries to lift off each pattern section
one by one as if it were a card
and place it on an imaginary table
in front of her.
I want to know what happened to her,
and what can be done about it.
"Hospitalitis," the nurse says.
She has seen it a million times before.
I go back to the bed and continue play-acting.
I am thankful too. Her mind is taking her to that other place
where she is young and beautiful
and lives on the west side of Chicago.
"I like this little room," she says.
"I’m glad," I say.
She flexed her fists
on the cold bed railing
keeping in time
with the rhythm of her heartbeats,
Soon her hold relaxed,
and with fingers intertwined
she wrapped her hands gently around the bar
Drugged from the morphine potion
placed kindly under her tongue
she lay there in a ball
like a sleeping skeleton,
her head tucked deep into her sunken chest
I sat with her, stroked her arm
like a skinny rail itself
and soothed the damp hair
off her forehead until she pushed me away
and took hold the railing again.
Finally too weak to reach her metal friend,
she allowed her folder fingers
to rest on the bed.
And I, kissed her graying, fading face
said my last I love you and goodbye.
A woman strong until the very end
took 94 years to finally let go.