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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ask the Questions.

The Almanac of Last Things

From the almanac of last things
I choose the spider lily
for the grace of its brief
blossom, though I myself
fear brevity

but I choose The Song of Songs
because the flesh
of those pomegranates
has survived
all the frost of dogma.

I choose January with its chill
lessons of patience and despair and
August, too sun-struck for lessons.
I choose a thimbleful of red wine
to make my heart race,

then another to help me
sleep. From the almanac
of last things, I choose you,
as I have done before.
And I choose evening

because the light clinging
to the window
is at its most reflective
just as it is ready
to go out.

Linda Paston

The last rose of summer was clinging to a spindly branch of the largest of Mother’s weather beaten roses. It was white, the color of winter, and tiny. I carefully cut it and placed it in a glass of water on the kitchen table, so that I could appreciate its quiet perfection with my morning coffee. Her flowering plants had been denuded by an overzealous yard-man, who decided in the middle of a July heat-wave to prune everything to the ground. I walked around looking at the stumps of 50 year old azaleas and camellias, heartbroken. The roses were all that remained. Mother cried when she first saw her yard. “They will grow back,” I said, and she responded, “Yes, but I will never see them bloom again.” That much was true.

My head was always full of questions then, as now. What was life like for her at the end of things? Was she sad? Did she have regrets? What had been her favorite thing to do in her long life? What did she remember about me as a child? What were the “bad years” when Daddy was drunk and Missy was sick like for her? But Mother was not the kind of person who wanted to reminisce. When I asked her questions like these, she just said, “Oh, Jane, I can’t remember. That was so long ago.”

I’m on my own when it comes to filling in the blanks about my mother's life. I waited too long to ask the questions. We made some new memories in her last days, however. I taught her how to do Sudoku puzzles! I, who can’t do a crossword to save my life, taught her, a life-long puzzler, how to do Sudoku! We completed two together. Later, when I spoke with her on the phone, she’d done three more! I heard the happiness in her voice.

Maybe it really doesn’t matter what the bad years were like. Maybe it’s just what’s happening right now that's important. But, I encourage you, if you're still fortunate enough to have a living mother or father, not to wait too late to ask the questions. Write the answers down in your own almanac of last things.

                                                                           In the Spirit,

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