What I Took After She Died in the Memory Care Wing by Irene Fick

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On the floor of Aunt Rosalie’s closet: in a plastic trash bag, the new slacks and matching shirts, still with tags, from Walmart she refused to wear. No gifts, she had said, and besides, I don’t like your taste.     

On the shelf: a cosmetic case with a hairnet, curlers, bobbi pins and three shades of red lipstick from Revlon (Wine With Everything, Spicy Cinnamon and Softsilver Rose). A plastic bag with a gold-plated crucifix, Mass cards from her sisters’ funerals, a Rosary with missing beads. A white knit cap with a pompom that concealed Rosalie’s self-inflicted buzz cut. The wait for the beauty parlor was too damned long.

On hangers: slacks and shirts in shades of green, from chartreuse to shamrock, pea to pine. A white nylon carcoat with a broken zipper and blood stains from last year’s fall at the Stop ’n Shop. An assortment of floral cotton housedresses worn in the old days when she cooked red sauce for hours and hours, long, so much better than that crap you find in jars.

On a hook behind the door: one powder blue chenille robe for the times she reclined in her naugahyde easy chair watching One Life To Live. She still knew her name, address and the quickest route to Vinnie’s coffee shop where she told stories about how she and Dottie and Bernice boarded a tour bus bound for The Catskills where they flirted with tanned, ebony-haired men with pinkie rings, then waltzed and fox-trotted in chiffon and slinky heels. I remember the sly smile, her eyes somewhere else: Those were the days, she said.

Before leaving Rosalie’s room, I slip on the robe to feel the squish of chenille. I recall how plump 4’10 Aunt Rosalie, the last of Mom’s sisters, crushed me to her bulbous breasts, marveled at how tall I had grown, called me skin and bones, then squeezed my cheek with her thumb and forefinger until it almost bruised.      

Meet the Contributor

Irene FickIrene Fick’s first two poetry chapbooks received first place awards from the National Federation of Press Women. Her poetry has been published in Poet Lore, Gargoyle, Delmarva Review and other journals. Her essay, The Greatest Unease, was published in 2020 in the River Teeth Journal. She lives in Lewes, Delaware, and is active in two writers groups.

Story Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Orin Zebest

  4 comments for “What I Took After She Died in the Memory Care Wing by Irene Fick

  1. I love your work. It touches me. I read “Gulf Coast 1977” some years ago and have had it on my Frig since then. Thank you.

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