Going Back Home to Visit, Denise Calvetti Michaels

Going Back Home to Visit Mom before Dad’s Diagnosis

                                                                                    —Redwood City, California, 2004

Dad never sleeps, eats too little, won’t shave, get out of bed, wants no visitors, only my mother.  At this stage, I can handle it on my own, she repeats, not wanting me to come over to the house on the corner of St. Francis Street and Oak Avenue where I spent my girlhood.  Instead we rendezvous, seek shade and the comfort of gardens at Red Morton Park, community center I glazed ceramic ash-trays in second grade, mother home alone, watering birds, dreaming of voile to veil the landscape when we meet.  At first she opens the trunk of her car to give me tennis balls Dad found at the park when he could still walk, watch baseball, sit on bleachers with Johnny Cardoni, his old friend from Italy.  She hands me essentials I must tote one thousand miles back to Seattle—the Fisher Price schoolhouse my brother’s children played with, the AAA maps of my parent’s road trips after I left for college, a Renaissance tin of sliver-moon biscotti baked with orange rind I spit out as a child.  When she drives away she leaves me and my husband in the parking lot to watch her car disappear, my father waiting for the bowl of Progresso’s minestrone she’s promised, the door of the toy school house I hold swinging open, tiny handless people—the teacher and her students, spilling to the ground, suddenly sacred.

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