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Personal Stories

Strangely Familiar: A Poem for my Mom

In tribute to Mom – Claire Sullivan, a resident of the Compass Memory Support Neighborhood at Standish Village Assisted Living in Boston MA. 

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She was dressed in lovely lavender, her favorite color

She said so, time and again, unaware of the repetitions

Wavy white hair framed a face softly lined

with creases that deepened when she smiled

a smile that was as wide as any 1st graders

It reached up over her pink cheeks to twinkling bluish eyes

both curious and questioning

———-

She seemed happy to see these strangers

who seemed somehow to know her

They greeted her one by one

like children lining up for something fun

Each lay a kiss upon her cheek

which to them, seemed so familiar

The kisses surprised her, tickled her sweetness

They joked and chatted, they teased

trying always to make her laugh, to please

As they talked she would buff and buff her fingernails

across the legs of her purple pants

A new tic or maybe a little bit of nervousness

done without awareness like breathing

or staring into space

———-

As she spoke, words emerged from her lips

that were incomprehensible

but try as she would

she could not translate this newfangled language

Could not un-garble the unexpected verse

Then she would get silly, clap her hands with delight

and say  “butta ba boom!” as clear as day

They all laughed, happy to see her happy

She’d made a joke!

———-

On that note they prepared to depart

cutting the tangled strings from their hearts

Each preparing to move on into their day

“See you later Mom,”

they sang in falsetto as they left

Pushing back the dark clouds swelling

behind their eyes and inside their chests

filing these precious minutes into the back of the day

a secure place to hold them for a while

———-

Her smile became confused as she waved good bye

and as the distance between them grew

she would begin anew to buff and buff her fingernails

across the legs of her purple pants

A new tic or maybe a little bit of nervousness

done without awareness like breathing

or staring into space

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