In the Backseat of the Limo by Mare Leonard
Dad’s in the middle, Mom on his right. I’m on his left. We follow the hearse filled with American Beauties, Baby’s Breath. A cascade of life.
Dad in advanced Alzheimer’s sees the roses and asks, “Who died?”
“Caroline died.” The beautiful charming, smart girl, your first child who could ride the waves, sweep the ball over the net, roller and ice skate, laugh until she cried, bake a perfect cheese cake, be mistaken for Audrey Hepburn. My older sister. My only sister.
I don’t say any of the above. I didn’t even think the above.
Every two minutes Dad asks, “Who died?” The first time it felt like a knife slicing open my heart. The pain lessened to punches, to bangs on the head, to the fear before falling, to a screaming nightmare.
“Dad, Dad, what do you remember about Caroline?”
“Your daughter, Caroline.”
“Your first child.”
“Your daughter who died.”
We are crowded in the limo, together but alone.
From the corner Mom says, “Those flowers, look, what are they, roses, American Beauties, Baby’s Breath? Thank God no gladioli, always see them in front of tombstones.”
Mare Leonard lives in an old school house overlooking the Rondout Creek in Kingston, NY. Away from her own personal blackboard, she teaches writing workshops for all ages through the Institute for Writing and Thinking and the MAT program at Bard College.