The Sacred Heart

a maroon leaf drops

stem to stem with a yellow

an autumn death pact

My mother is 101.   She lives in a home.   She had a private room until last month.   Until her privacy didn’t matter because reality doesn’t matter.   Because I live half-a-country away, I never met the new roommate.   Until my visit last Monday.

There is a simplicity to our visits.   Mother likes the relationship.   I like the relationship.   Beyond that, there is nothing.   Mother has dementia.   So when we talk about the old days, nobody’s dead to her and everyone – husbands and parents and friends – are all in the next room.   I’m in there.   Like when she tells me about the other son named John, “the teacher”, the one she delivered last week “in the next room”.   To her nurse, dementia is a complex disease.   To me, it’s as simple as emptiness.

But about the roommate.   Mother says the roommate’s husband once visited, that and something about him kneeling.   Their room is just over there.   So I look.   She’s beautiful.   The roommate is half my mother’s age.   While Mother has all manner of personal items – her rosary, snapshots, a box of Kleenex, a drawing of the Sacred Heart – the roommate has just one photo, her and her husband at something formal.   The husband is the kind of guy who wears a tuxedo well.   She is tan, 35-ish, shapely, charming in that Southern big-haired sort of way.   She effortlessly wears the low cut dress of a woman who knows she’s sexy.   The shot captures her mid-laugh.   Today she stares out the window on her right.   She pays no mind to her photo, to me, to the nurse who comes up behind me.   Her nurse says she’s been staring for fifteen years this way.   But this isn’t about the window.   She simply stares to the right.

just before I leave

I stare out the living room

window to the street

a basketball rolls by followed

by nothing no one not a soul


Filed under: John Samuel Tieman, Prose