Benny Goodman Once Played "Moonglow" Just for Her
by Barry Basden
I'm cleaning my mother's room, long overdue. She won't let the staff touch it. A penciled note on the wall by the door reads, "Will you PLEASE leave my things alone."
Her toothbrush lies under house slippers in a file cabinet. In the chest of drawers I find an open package of Oreos hidden beneath her underwear, and in the sweater drawer, wrapped in a towel, her favorite pair of shoes, the ones she said they'd stolen.
I pick up an old compact, empty, with a cracked mirror. "Please don't take that," she says. "I don't have anything anymore. No house, no car. Everything I have is in this room. Please put it back. Please."
She is weeping. "They've taken all my money." Then she reaches into her bra and digs out two folded bills, the singles I gave her last Tuesday. She stares at them.
"There they are, Mama. Put them back. They'll be safe."
I find quarters in a baggie under a cushion, lipstick behind the night stand, makeup in a coat pocket, strips of Polident tablets everywhere. I fill a trash sack with detritus while she leans forward in her chair, her fingers pressed against her forehead. She makes a small sound. I put down the sack, take her in my arms, and stroke her back, fragile as a bird's.
"I love you, Mama."
"I don't know why God doesn't take me home," she says into my chest.
I finish up quickly. By this evening she won't remember I was here. I write a note that says nobody at the home had anything to do with this, that I'm solely responsible. I read it to her, then lay it on the table next to my father's picture.
Like always, she insists on seeing me out. We leave the room, double-check the lock, and start down the hall toward the lobby. We seem to float right through the air.