Wednesday, September 20

Quiet night, reading in bed when it comes in through the window like an anthem - the theme song for M*A*S*H. Almost every day for five years after Marnie got sick it came up the stairwell to our place. Almost every night growing up it came through the wall from my mother's room. For at least half of my life, one of the steadiest things I knew.

This morning cleaning like the Queen is coming. Sam nursing and crying and sleeping, nursing and sleeping and crying. Abby walking around with her doll singing a song to herself: Don't cry, Mommy, don't cry. Kitchen and bathroom mopped, chairs scrubbed, counters clean. Soup on the stove, soup on the stove. By six o'clock the three of us are sitting in the middle of a pile of laundry to fold, one of us crying. By nine I am the only one awake and not much of the day's work shows. By ten thirty the kitchen is clean again and I am done.

Sunday, September 17

To think about it wakes me up at night.

When Judy got sick they flew her east. They gave her the bedroom we had slept in and the tv room on the second floor. They scoffed at her diet of whole grains and raw vegetables.

When she got sicker they wheeled her out into the sun on a new wrought-iron chaise lounge. She sat in the sun and tanned. She sat in the sun and grew new hair as her baby girl walked on the grass of the hill. She sat in the sun while her eyes got empty. After I saw her for the last time I watched the parade from the corner in front of the art store. Two days later she was dead.

I know a man who kept his toenail clippings in a decorated pill box next to the bed. He slept under a print of two men sleeping next to eachother. His lover's daughter thought it was a picture of her father twice.

Saturday, September 16

Coming home from the orchard, a car burnt out just south of exit 15. Vermont plates, fire engine, ambulance, police cars. Trees turning red around us. Coming up on October, it'll be here soon, then November and December. Months get cold and colder.

On the second floor in the tv room we sat and ate oranges before bed. Marnie would peel them and split them between us. Elizabeth in her red and white pajamas. Robert in his velour tiger suit. A hug and a bug and a love and a kiss before bed. Us in the big house with our grandparents, her home alone in an empty room that would be mine. Crying.

When she was little she would climb into the bread oven beside the fireplace in the tv room and close the door. As he was emptying the house she climbed in again, in with old postcards and lost scrabble letters, the snakeskin from Peter's move west. The room almost empty but for the pictures on the mantle and my grandfather's grandfather's cradle. Pictures cut out and glued to a board, kids in turtlenecks. Judy smiling.