73: Adjustment

73: Adjustment

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers


The leaves of memory seemed to make A mournful rustling in the dark.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Late afternoons Mother wanders
the corridors of the nursing home.
She looks for a way out
to a place where she
can recognize herself.


She’s gone from her narrow kitchen
once brightened with pink Formica
where she stood for hours in front
of her old gas stove, satisfied
stirring stews or soups, roasting chickens.


Now she can’t boil water, the simplest
of tasks. She spends her days wandering
through rooms of other patients,
fills a shopping bag with treasures—
someone’s pair of cheap earrings, a borrowed
polyester dress two sizes too large, a terrycloth
robe with tears at the hem. The nurses and I
laugh when she tells us she’s tired,
having spent the day shopping.


But late at night I can’t laugh
when she grows restless again
and walks the corridors. She
and the others pass each other
again and again trapped like fish
in this waterless bowl. Outside
are flowers and a bench in the garden
where she’s not allowed to go.


Each night she re-hides her purse
in a new spot under her mattress,
packs earrings, a dress and a robe
in her pillowcase, ready for her escape.
I know she’s standing by the phone but
can’t remember anyone’s number.

~Sandra Berris

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