Letter to My Sister
You did not visit me in hospital,
did not send get well cards
or vases of flowers.
That’s OK; they wouldn’t
have let me keep the vases anyway.
You say I have been sick long enough.
You do not say that to our grandfather
as his Alzheimer’s progresses.
As his mind becomes a sieve,
as he no longer recognizes you or your children,
as he becomes incontinent,
you love him. You are patient,
you cook his favorite foods,
even though he no longer remembers
he loves them. Even though
he no longer remembers he loves you.
But you have decided
my illness is not an illness
but an indulgence from which
I should simply abstain.
My mind is not a sieve.
It holds on to everything.
And yet, I am not sure
I can recognize you now.
Do you remember how I walked with you
as you labored on a salty summer night,
brought you herbal tea and a birthing ball,
sat by your hospital bed those long and lonely hours?
Oh, I do.
I went alone to the emergency room.
No one sat by my bed
as they emptied my stomach,
as they fed me thick liquid charcoal
that stained my hands and my lips.
No one walked with me
onto that locked ward.
You tell me I have been depressed long enough.
You sit beside our grandfather
on the porch swing,
hold the cat for him to pet.
You are tender, soft.
You tell me it is enough.
I will wait alone on the food stamp line.
I will put on another sweater,
and turn down the heat.
I will take my turn
cooking pork chops and potatoes for Papa.
I will send your children birthday cards.
It will not be enough.