My father cheerfully introduces me to his new sweetheart, Ann. Instantly â€“ irrationally â€“ I wish she would disappear. They are in the community room, sitting alone, wearing their coats. Also, she is wearing her knit gloves, one brown, one black. They sneak outside often during the day into what turns out – to their eternal surprise and disgust – to be a gated courtyard. They walk, arm in arm, on the concrete path, carefully cleared of snow and ice. Dad fiddles with locked latch of the metal gate. He does not have the proper tools to free her from her destiny.
Ann has not been here long and she is a restless, reckless home seeker. Terribly bored, she complains as we chat. Neither she nor my father remembers I met her a week ago when I found them in his room with the door closed, wearing their coats, clearing the clutter from his window shelf to make way for their exit as soon as he smashed the glass with his cane – which I carried home with me that afternoon.
Ann rises, says sheâ€™s going to her room to call her parents because sheâ€™s ready to go home. The problem sheâ€™s facing, she explains, is elderly relatives who have decided someone from their family needs to stay in this place, and she has been picked. My father is anxious about Annâ€™s welfare. Until she is out of sight.
We go to his room and he shows me his pictures – the ones an aid keeps returning to their place on the window shelf – of our family, his grandchildren, smiling in frames. Thereâ€™s a collage we made that heâ€™s shown me many times before – pictures of his middle aged self with my mother, his wife until her death, wearing sunglasses and tans in Bermuda near Horseshoe Bay Beach. And one where my mother sits perkily behind him on a motorbike in her helmet, smiling. She is the love of my life, he suddenly remembers. And she’s gone.
Usually, when we go through the ritual of photos he asks if sheâ€™s gone. Today, this catastrophe is not a question. You can’t fathom how to deal with this loss, this grief, he says. I will never see her again. You can’t imagine how much I miss her. He touches the glass with his fingers as if he’s not sure he can’t stop her from leaving.
He has never remembered his sadness this big and I sit on the bed while he sits in his chair. He is taking short breaths. She has been gone almost six years of my life and one terrible moment of his â€“ this moment, now and forever, she’s gone. He will have his grief. When I am gone Ann will seek him out and he will have a next moment, a new now without my mother. They will walk outside, discover the gate, fuss with the lock.
Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and workshop facilitator whose chapbook â€œAll These Cures,â€ won the 2014 Lit House Press poetry contest. Kellyâ€™s poems and essays are published in many literary journals, and her award winning plays are produced around the US and published by dramatic publishers. She produces the Our Voices Festival of Women Playwrights & Poets, held at Wellesley College, now in its 9thÂ year. A former psychotherapist,Â Kellyâ€™s training in psychodrama and Playback Theatre enliven her creative writing workshops with transformative energy.Â Her website is KellyDuMar.com