I awoke to the smell of coffee; an apropos detail for such a morning. It was a rare occurrence—the aromatic coup of coffee brewed—that signaled your presence in our home.
In the living room my mother anxiously rifles through a box of photographs, searching desperately for a picture of you taken one summer under the big tree in our backyard, surrounded by your daughters and grandchildren. We’re positive it was stolen but avoid naming names. I lament how childish and fucked up things are, but I’m careful not to articulate exactly what is meant by ‘things.’ Instead I bristle at the thought of the memory thief laughing at my mother’s expense—for any reason.
In a final exercise of hope I’m sent to assist my father in procuring more photographs for sorting. I stand at the foot of the pull down latter ready to receive whatever time capsules descend from the darkness. I hear my name and turn my face upward to be met by a rain of latent images. As I stoop to gather the scattered photos I stop to ponder how the molecular structure of a photograph could ever hope to compare to the molecular experience of a memory.
Just before we leave for your memorial I ask why only one of your sons will be in attendance. The answer startles me and I’m inundated with the heavy sense of your humanity twenty-eight years too late. On the ride home I soothe my disappointment by reflecting on the events at home; these were your true memorial not half an hour of gospel.
I awoke to find my mother had gone already to the home you’ve just left behind. She had a list of things she intended to fetch before the home is dismantled, parceled and relegated to memories. I took the lima bean green tea pot from the windowsill, that night I was there and I couldn’t sleep. I wrapped it in my night shirt and tucked it in my bag. By that time, though, I’d noticed things had already been rifled through, boxed, and lost to the world. What was it like to spend your last days in a home that had already begun to breakdown? Did you really need a literal reminder that you were moving on?
I called my mom and asked for a piece of your jewelry I’d admired since I was a child. It was nothing special, nothing expensive, just smart: a string of black and white micro-beads in a candy cane pattern. I breathed a sigh of relief when she called to tell me it was there. When she returned and handed it to me, I was overwhelmed by the scent of roses and I shivered. I understand ghosts smell like roses. But I know you were fond of having little parfum packages tucked in your dresser drawers.
I’m sad now. I claim we were never close and yet I begin to recall the minutest of details, your subtlest idiosyncrasies and every home you’ve lived in that I’ve ever known. I remember in great detail the floor plans, the décor, and the smells distinct to each. I remember the constants: the bread machines, the afghans, the stockings hung to dry in the bathroom, the blaring televisions playing murder mysteries and you. And now, as I sit weeping, I can’t think of single thing more finite than death, an event lonelier than dying, or an emblem more poignant than an empty home.
One evening my sister and I tussled about on the big bed–the single bed not attached to our bunk beds. Elizabeth, more recently known on occasion as ‘Hulk Beth,’ pulled me down and flipped me over her leg. I remain convinced that it was some fancy Judo move she just happened to improvise. I flew off of the bed and struck my head on the jagged corner of the electric heater. Immediately I felt dizzy and then I was bleeding. But, I was relatively coherent so I didn’t panic. We put an ice pack and a rag over my gash…
No, it didn’t happen that way. The way my sister tells the story, I launched myself over top of her, my temple aiming directly for that rusty corner, and I never made a sound. Even after I put my hand to my head and felt the wetness that was my blood, I didn’t speak…
No, what really happened is the story of two little girls who were rough housing when gravity decided to join in. Once gravity had thrown one of the girls a twist, literally, skin took offense and blood felt the need to comfort it.