My mother sits alone in her room,
on her bed,
stroking her cat,
blinds closed, curtains drawn.
The great literature
that fed her mind for decades,
erased by dementia,
replaced with Sudoku and crossword puzzles.
her bravado, gone.
The woman who never watched television
now sits mindlessly
through reruns of Murder, She Wrote.
“Did they put her on antipsychotics?”
I ask my sister.
“No, she’s not on anything.
She just doesn’t have the energy
to bitch anymore.”
I sit in a chair across from her bed.
“I liked you better
when you hated everyone.”
She looks at me puzzled.
“At least you had some style then.
Remember when the neighbors
took a restraining order out on you?”
She looks away, waving me off.
“I don’t remember much about the old days.”
She’s brushing her cat
who’s licking his balls.
“Well, lucky you!”
I look over at her nightstand.
There’s a bell next to her glasses.
Whenever she rings the bell
an aid appears at the door.
I open the drawer,
put the bell inside, close it.
“Remember when you tried
to make that doctor put me on drugs
so I’d shut up?”
“Honey, really, I just don’t remember.”
“I think you remember when you told
all the relatives what a liar I am.
How you turned them against me?
Surely you remember that.”
“Oh, was I a bad mother?” she asks,
rolling her eyes, smiling.
“Is that what this is all about?”
I get up to leave,
leaning down to whisper in her ear,
“I was your daughter. I hope you rot in hell.”
On the drive home I realize
she’s already forgotten our conversation.
And I’ve already remembered
the time she sang Sinatra songs
in the kitchen,
stirring the spaghetti sauce,
baking the bread,
while I accompanied her
on my clarinet,
and a hundred other things
I used to love about her.
Wendy Rainey is author of two books: Hollywood Church: Short Stories and Poems and Girl On The Highway. She is a contributing poetry editor on Chiron Review. Her work has appeared in Nerve Cowboy, Rusty Truck, Misfit Magazine and beyond. She studied poetry with Jack Grapes in Los Angeles and creative writing with Gerald Locklin at California State University, Long Beach.