May is motherhood memoir month

Ekphrastic Mama

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Mother’s Only Brother

He went off to the Korean War and never came back When her only brother went off to the Korean War as a medic, my mother was a junior in high school. They lived in the small town of Geneseo, Illinois, southwest of Chicago, near Davenport, Iowa. Born late in the lives of my grandparents, my mother’s older brother was also her only brother. Not until my mother’s recent death have I thought more deeply on how this loss affected her young life. She only talked about her brother in brief outbursts, then tears overtook her, as if she were experiencing his death all over again. This mystified me. It was so long ago. How could it still ache like such a fresh wound? As a child of 10, I remember awakening one night to the cacophony of her playing both the piano and the organ at the same time.…

The Ekphrastic Letter

Dear Mother,
I should’ve cleaned your fingernails before you died. I know dirty fingernails never bothered you, but in that last photo I took of you where your hands wrap around the ceramic mug of fresh coffee I brought with real cream, instead of the styrofoam cup of instant with powder packets you’d been getting—-in that picture the gleam is back in your eyes, feisty again, but a dark, dirty rim lines each fingernail. I regret not offering to clean your nails, but at the time it didn’t occur to me. You had lots of life left in you. You could’ve cleaned your own fingernails….