Who Will Watch Mother

Written by: Edmund Siejka

We sat down at the kitchen table
Under an overhead light
And talked about my mother
My wife understood
I was the oldest, she said
Don’t wait for the others.

So I took care of mother
Paid the bills
Spoke to the landlord
Went food shopping
And did what needed to be done.

On a cold winter day
Mother was hospitalized 
For the third time
I waited in the hall
Facing two red leatherette lounge chairs
The kind that are
Inexpensive and easy to clean
Vending machine just a few steps away
All designed to make someone
Feel comfortable.

Startled, I turned
T o see a nurse
Coming from nowhere
Her face a masquerade
As if she wanted to stop
And tell me something
But couldn’t 
When she walked past me 
I listened to her padded footsteps
As she disappeared 
Down another beige corridor.

Absent mindedly 
I returned to random thoughts
Odds and ends of an old woman’s life
When a heart aches
 And memory fails
All is that left
Are promises
And words
Dangling somewhere
“Call us if you ever need anything.”

No one visited
Not the nieces
Not the nephews
She sent Christmas cards to
Stuffed with cash
Written in an old style of writing
Some misspellings
But always signed
“Love Grandma.”

Eager to show their concern
They call me now 
And ask how she’s doing
I cradle the phone on my shoulder
And listen to their words
With a blank stare.

Mother has taken a turn for the worse
Cancer has spread
There is pain
But the medication masks it
And she sleeps most of the day
Seemingly in peace.

Occasionally she calls me
By someone’s else name
She’s forgotten a lot of things
After considering
What she’s been through
Perhaps it’s better this way.