My father does not know he is
going into a nursing home.
Perplexed by Alzheimer’s,
but today uncomplaining, he sits
at the kitchen table. “Annie-love,
it’s good to see your smiling face.”
He’s been a drunk for so many years,
it is hard not to think of these words
as a bribe for forgiveness.
But I remember now that for a long time
I have forgiven him, and I hear
his happiness and start to cry,
because he understands, sober
and aged, even less than he did
when he was drunk and middle-aged.

My husband stands near the sink.
We’re visiting for the last time in the house.
Next week my father will go
to the nursing home, a cinder-block-
and-linoleum building where within two weeks
he will charm the staff, insisting everyone
call him Reed, have a heart attack, and die.
Now my father raises his hand,
nods past us toward the dining room,
and, smiling, waves.
When my husband and I turn our heads
to look, we see an empty doorway,
sunlight and shadows stippling the green carpet
and the warm brown of the wood chairs.
“Hello, hello,” my father says, waving to the threshold.
“Hello, hello,” he nods to the brightness, smiling.