For Naomi

I’m ready. Ruth ironed the labels on my permanent press, no iron, crease-free, clothes. She said I would burn myself or start a fire if I did the ironing. As if I haven’t ironed hills, mountains, a veritable Mt. Everest of clothes in my time. Her clothes, Herb’s clothes, even my parents’ clothes, come to think of it.

Ruth packed my bag last night—clothes, underwear, toiletries, a photo or two, extra pair of glasses. It’s fine with me. I’m not going to weigh her down with the job of taking care of me as I decline into the two deadly sins of old age—forgetfulness and incontinence.

When my Herb passed away, I knew the golden age wasn’t so golden after all. I wish, just once, I could joke with Herb again. I used to call him Herb when I liked him; “Erb” when I didn’t. But he’d smile in that quiet way of his, and give me a pinch on the cheek, or the bum, and that made everything all right. Never held a grudge; never went to bed without making up, sometimes making out.

And oh, did we have good times together! We’d go out dancing on Saturday night and dance to tunes like “In the Mood” or “Getting Sentimental Over You”. Herb was just a little taller than me and he knew how to lead. He’d hold me just so and gently guide me around the dance floor. I held my head against his chest, and I could hear his heart beating. I smelled the clean scent of his shirt and the faint odour of sweat underneath. His hand so gently, so firmly, holding mine. It’s his touch I miss most of all.

“At the Old Folks’ Home or, What’s Happening?”
© 2005 by Anne Dublin
Originally published in Parchment, 2005
All rights reserved.