In Hudson Falls you were five years old
in an age without antibiotics
your lungs got so stuffed they almost stopped.
The doctors said you’d never make it.
Your family said you’d never marry.
You left for Jacksonville, then New York
tracking down clerical jobs, living in furnished rooms.
Until you met Mike, married, had two children.
The first, doctors said was too small,
but the incubator heated her to five pounds.
The second the doctors said would bleed away,
but she was saved by bedrest and DES.
You bought a house and painted till
the cold chapped your legs.
You vacationed at a Jersey pond
Mike and your older daughter slipped
deep in a sand hole, went down three times,
stumbled onto shore.
Your daughters married, one in a backyard
another in a ballroom with flaming desserts.
Mike battled diabetes until one night
fluid filled his lungs. You knew he had survived
whooping cough, World War II, muggings.
You knew he could fight. And he did.
But it was not enough.
Your grandchildren cried while “Taps” played.
You and your daughters huddled in memories.
You watched your grandchildren, and they grew
strong enough to move you into their mother’s house,
where you collected newspapers, yogurt containers;
put suitcases in the bathtub. We could not understand.
Until one midnight, broken hip barely healed,
you screamed at your daughter’s door, trembled
telling of burglers who stole your teeth.
The doctor prescribed tranquilizers, diagnosed Alzheimers.
You touch your daughter’s tablecloth like a wall
in the lightless night. Talk of the hospital stay
almost a century ago when you sang
“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.”
We watch each barely shaped memory fade.