A Day with Frances
According to Frances, at 95 years old, there’s one hour
In one minute, one day in one hour, one year in one eternity.
She lives alone, and she counts down her days on the calendar.
At 8am, with a glass of water half empty on the nightstand,
Fingers trembling, she picks up her chest of jewels, priceless and limited:
Calcium for the bones, lanoxin for irregular heart rhythms,
Quinapril for blood pressure, and levothyroxine for a thyroid disorder.
Then, back to bed, irritated that the commode hasn’t been emptied,
and stare at the ceiling, wishing for an Angel to crash-land on her bed.
It heralds, “Your time is up! Come with me, Our Father calls for you!”
But it’s the alarm clock that rings, not the long-awaited Angel that sings.
At 9am, eating breakfast at the table with ghosts of a family of four,
She looks across the one mile of silence between her and a part-time caregiver,
A row of petals in the middle, dropped by flowers, mark the border.
Frances speaks English and is fluent in Yiddish and German.
She lifts up a hammer and breaks the ice.
“Do you like meatloaf?”
The caregiver’s eyes blink. Shoulders shrug. “No sé.”
It ends before it begins. Frances sighs.
At 1pm, she sits on the couch and flips through channels
Who’s the real father? The test results are in…
But her eyes dart to the front door.
Maybe her good girl might come. Pigtails and smiles.
“Oh, Frances, don’t you remember that postcard she sent?
Little darling got her own husband and kids, and those kids got their own kids.
They’re all sunbathing in Key West, or skiing down slopes up in the Alps,”
Frances reminds Frances.
At 3pm, she flips more channels, round and round she goes
Now add some red wine to the broth, mmm look at how…
But her eyes again wait for that front door to break open.
Maybe her baby boy might come. Baseball cap and smiles.
“Oh, Frances, don’t you remember what he said on the phone last time?
Didn’t he find a new wife or a new life in China? It could’ve been Canada.
Anyway, he’s somewhere far, and you’re partially deaf and you hung up the phone!”
Frances reminds Frances.
At 8pm, for bed she prepares a glass of water and places it on the nightstand,
and she picks up that chest of jewels once more, her precious stones:
Calcium for the bones, donepezil hydrochloride for the brain,
One pill to soften the stool, and warfarin for prevention of heart attacks.
Then, in bed she shuts her eyes, relieved that the day has ended.
“Maybe tonight,” Frances whispers to Frances, “will finally be the Long Sleep.”
Published in Skive Magazine, 2012.
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