I knew that when Dad died, it would be hard to have a room in my home that was so linked to him in my mind. I didn’t want it to be a mausoleum nor did I want to purge it of his presence. I want it to be a sanctuary where guests are welcomed but where I can still retreat to remember the last seven years that he lived here. My big idea is to have a friend create a painting that honors my memory of him. And as time has gone on – now four months since he died – I realize there is no way to create something about Dad that doesn’t include Mom. Though they were strong individuals, they were that rare couple that becomes a single entity through the strange chemistry of attraction and the catalyst of shared experience.
When I initially imagined a painting, I thought about it honoring my parents as I knew them at the end of their lives. But now I picture it drawing upon a long-ago period, a period when they were the pillars of my world, and I was small.
I don’t write poetry – at least I haven’t in years – but somehow thinking about the painting prompted this:
It should have a wing chair in it.
We always had wing chairs.
It was where Daddy let the stress of the day ooze out of him
While he read the paper, sipped a scotch on the rocks,
And maybe another.
Sometimes his hand would rest lightly
On the head of one of our spaniels,
Who sat stock still for his attention.
It was where I sat on his lap.
Where he read to me about the Land of Oz.
I wanted to be like Ozma who rescues Dorothy
From the terrors of the disturbing Wheelers.
People shouldn’t have wheels where hands and feet should be.
But then Daddy’s shouldn’t have heart attacks,
And dogs shouldn’t bite you in the neck,
And Nana’s shouldn’t die.
I wanted to be brave.
Sometimes Mom would stand next to the chair,
Her hand resting lightly on the wing
The hand with her wedding ring
Loose at her side.
Smiling as a present was opened,
Laughing at a joke,
Meeting Daddy’s eyes and sparkling.
Sometimes he would look at her and quote something
About a barge with purple perfumed sails and love-sick winds.
Next to her I could smell the delicate scent of her bath powder,
Which she applied with a fluffy puff that made me sneeze.
There were fights sometimes, and those scared me.
Mother’s voice rising, then father’s, and mother’s right back.
I knew bad things could happen to parents,
Would it happen to mine?
But when it was over it was over.
But nothing bad ever seemed to happen in the kingdom of the wing chair.
It was sacred space.