In the sunlit exercise room, my mother sits
beside a balding, bearded man in a motorcycle jacket
to practice clipping clothespins to a paper cup.
Across the square table—a rapidly-blinking
young man and a woman with deep wrinkles
and purple hair. None of them talk.

The therapist reminds everyone to use only
one hand. Remember, this is healing
not just your body, but your brain.

She passes out putty, demonstrates
how to gather it into a ball, then flatten it
against the tabletop with only her fingers.
Motorcycle man keeps dropping his putty.
The blinking man breathes heavily.
The purple-haired woman bites her lip.
The daughter sitting behind her pats a shoulder, whispers
in her ear.

My father holds my mother’s right hand
to keep her from using it.
His eyes won’t stay open. His body sags sideways.
My mother tells him it’s time for his nap,
looks for his hat.
Before he can step away, she reaches up from her wheelchair
to tug at his scarf. Come here, You.
Don’t go without a proper good bye.

They kiss.
Light touches the whole table.
Everyone blinks
as my father straightens
and my mother beams
and my father smiles
and my mother teases,
Do I know you? I sure hope so.
If I don’t, I want to.


UNFILTERED LIGHT by Jennifer Freed



Photo by Gert Stockmans on Unsplash