Bio Note: I think my first real sense of celebration about writing and words came for me as a teacher when I was working with a group of eighth-graders who adopted the name of Dreamcatchers and met during their study hall. It was so easy to laud what they had written, often with seeming ease. It never occurred to me that I, too, would be writing and publishing one day.
I collect them, bags. Plastic, saved and bunched like carrots for my sister whose husband freshens the kitty litter daily. My sister out-grew her aversion to cats. Some bags they give to their daughter-in-law who’s a dog groomer. I don’t know that business but bags come in handy I’m told. I save the paper ones. Grocery bags with handles, flattened and nested together— I ask for them wherever I go. My father’s 97—remarried when he was 88. I can’t see him much—I’m not welcome. His wife has an allergy to me. He loves those bags though for placing newspapers in the recycling bin. I don’t know their business but bringing bags gets me in the door. Bags come in handy I’m told. My sister checked his cabinet in the garage last time she was there. Don’t bring anymore. He has enough. I’ll pretend I forgot. Bags. My calling card.
When My Father Can Still Make Jokes
Do you have a skillet good for toasted cheese, Dad? His kitchen’s designed for seniors. $500 a month assessment to grapple with living on your own. He lets loose of his cane, and bends to pull out a low drawer before I can reach him to foil a fall. He’s fine. No tumble or fumble. The drawer slides in and out. That’s a nice feature, Dad. Sliding drawers. “Yes, he says. Probably costs $100 a month.” I laugh too loud, too hard. I don’t care. Funny, Dad. Good one.
I sit with him, my father, in the sunroom where he has tumbled back into the cushy chair that can lift him up if he can’t rise. Golf drones on the TV. The volume’s up. The sun blazes in Augusta and the commentators buzz. The ball is affected by everything. Tiny little imperfections . . . All sorts of swales and hollows. Likely this will be food for their chatter for ten more minutes. Augusta where short-sleeved men putt and drive on the screen while the sun is making a poor showing in Illinois. Still it warms the room. Finally Dad says, Well, we don’t need to listen to this, as he mutes, fielding the remote plopped next to the portable phone I’ve pleaded with him to keep near. He seems foggy today. Not he-doesn’t-know-me foggy. Just brain-haze that surely comes with ninety and eight years. We easy-chat while I probe. Is the dishwasher working again? The dryer? Did you get any bills I need to pay? What do you eat for lunch? Usually a sandwich. Dinner? With a lift in his voice, I eat the meals from Catholic Charities. Tim drops them off. He gets meat, vegetable, a carton of milk. I like that he looks good today— dark dress pants with sealed-in creases, a collared checkered shirt, and shoes he wears always in the house. He doesn’t sigh. Complain. Drown in regrets. Question what tomorrow will bring. I ask him, “Why golf.” His response comes quick. He used to follow tennis, football, even March madness. It’s on for a long time. The only sport that is. When the days are long, golf is his flame.
©2022 Gail Goepfert
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