Collecting bottles, tossing leftovers, taking out the garbage
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Because she is old, my mother performs the Sabbath ritual very slowly. Sitting in front of the brass candlesticks given to her by her mother, she looks as if God is pressing down hard on the top of her head. Her face juts forward, and the top of her back is rounded. Because she is demented and her short-term memory is shot, it’s impossible to have a conversation with her.
Tripod has been peacefully asleep for many minutes, yet I am still running my hand from her ear down to her hip, stroking her again and again. But now I remember why I brought her here, and I look up into the solemn face of the old vet and nod.
An intuitive decision, a trip to the park, a confluence of yellow
Having to choose, clutching a doll, finding it hard to say goodbye
When he was old, I tried to introduce him to the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness; I thought it would ease any anxiety he might be having about the imminence of death. “Ultimately,” I began, “you never were.” “Maybe not,” he said, peering over the rim of his glasses, “but I made a hell of a splash where I should have been.”
The old man is sitting in his newest hole, a big one, half-concealed by the hedge. I squat beside it as he explores the dirt with his hands. Our lawn is a rough and violent landscape; everywhere there are angry holes, wounds that are unable to heal.
It is 1 in the morning in California, where I live now, 4 a.m. in North Carolina where Grandfather sits in the kitchen. Through the screen door, past a curtainless window, I watch him before entering.
I have not been close to my mother. We have been friendly, conventional, conversational — not close. I felt her love as a black hole, waiting to suck me in. I danced cautiously around its rim. Now it is safe to come close. It always was safe.
Popcorn strategy, domestic violence, the importance of being cute