Tribute to Memory (for I.A.S.)

They’re saying he has Alzheimer’s

Or maybe Parkinson’s.

They tried to take his license away

But he passed his driving test.

He showed them, the “sons o’ bitches.”

Grandma’s still afraid of his driving

Always telling him to slow down,

Only letting him get up to 40, on a good day.

He used to drive a school bus for a living

Responsible for fifty kids on any given day.

They were all afraid of him,

Called him “The Bear” behind his back.

Now his own wife’s afraid

He won’t make it home from the store

And when he does she whispers into the phone

About what he brings home.

Because if he brings home anything

That wasn’t on the list

She won’t ask him why

She’ll only whisper “It’s the Alzheimer’s”

While she thinks he’s asleep.

But what she doesn’t know is

He never really sleeps, anymore.

He worries he’ll forget to wake up

Or that he’ll turn the oven on, in his sleep

Like he did once

When he was dreaming

About making someone a fried-egg sandwich.

When she’s asleep

He hunkers down, and whispers to me

That if she goes before he does

He’s going for a long, long ride

Down to Pennsylvania

To see his family.

In black and white snapshots

From the forties and fifties

He wore double-breasted suits,

Fedoras and long trench coats

He stands unbelievably tall

And his eyes shine

Like he has a new story to tell.

He told all the best stories

Before he started forgetting

And everyone stopped listening.

When it’s all over

I see him in the suits he used to wear

Looking like an Untouchable

He’s driving a cherry red, ’57 Chevy convertible

The top down

The wind in his hair

Driving at least 55

Down the Pennsylvania turnpike

To visit his brothers and sisters

And I’m riding shotgun

Holding his fedora in my lap.

He’s telling me about the time

He caught a fish the size of a shark

“I shit you not!”

Laughing his good ol’ boy laugh

Slapping his knee

Holding his pipe in one hand

The sweet smell of it dancing on the breeze.

I inhale deeply

Then take a drink

Of the delicious kitty cocktail

He has prepared for me.

I slide across the seat,

Kiss the rough skin of his cheek,

And we laugh

And laugh

And laugh.




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