Oonjit Leela Tiparos, the woman who helped me raise my children, who gave everything of herself to her family, who wasn’t afraid of anything, who made me laugh when mothering made me want to cry has died after too many years living with dementia. Sharing a home with her for so many years, watching her be a devoted mother and grandmother and daughter, I learned more from her than I know. Thank you, Mei Ya.
Fingertips that always tended,
before her mind began looping back
to time before children,
now nearly touch as if to kiss
five and five gather together
clutch at blanket’s edge as if a hem
with stitches to pull
Holding invisible needle, she cocks her head
shrunken on stem of narrow neck
twisted on hard pillow
working arm’s length thread
and begins to sew.
We, sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, grown
gather around her gurney
in this room of
atrophied limbs and television’s drone
pairs of vacant eyes
gazing from each bed.
unsure that we exist
when she no longer knows our names.
Her eldest son smiles and
calls into her wilted ear
Do you have children?
What are their names?
Each demand a
grenade lobbed behind kitchen curtains
where she lives
A laugh sputters from him as if
he doesn’t feel his own heart ache
every time he asks her if she knows his name.
But nothing shakes the fortress where she wanders now
her heavy-lidded gaze roves past our wanting faces
now no more to her than interruption.
She mutters with so little concern
we know that we are only errant threads.
and she returns to the work at hand,
gathering bits of illusion like cloth
stitches that are hers alone
she pulls at endless hems
to unstitch, unbind, release.
All this unravels only us.
Our dear mother is content.
to be embroidered into her work
lifted to the light where she can see and make
our shape and color.