To My Mother Waiting on 10/01/54
That October might have begun pretty much like this one. Last night, first chilly night, we shut all the windows, the cat curled between John's legs, I slept with a blanket over my head. At six a.m., wrapped in a sweater, I checked the newly dug beds of bulbs—tulips, your favorite— and wondered if they, and the ones I planted on your grave, would survive the months of frozen ground. You were three days from bearing your tenth; rather than risk a fall, going up and down two steep flights, you stayed inside. At six a.m. you may've been in your rocking chair, half-listening for fights over blankets or Pop's return from the graveyard shift while you folded, again, a newly washed stack of secondhand diapers and tees. Maybe a draft made you shiver or a pain made you think it's beginning. Too soon the cold will kill the last blooms on asters, hydrangea, Autumn Joy sedum. Too soon another breakdown left you in the depression that lasted the rest of your life. Too soon Judge Grossi ruled you were dangerous to your child's welfare. At fifteen I was free to leave. But this morning, I went back to when the cold hadn't yet settled in, when you were waiting for me.