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The Sweater

Catherine Graham
From:   The White Page - An Bhileog Bhan- Twentieth Century Irish Women Poets. Ireland: Salmon Publishing, 1999.

Around-the-clock care is required for a mother
who wishes to spend her sickness at home.
The stores are beginning their countdown to Christmas -
she watches the ads while lying in bed,
wondering what to buy for her only daughter,
not wanting to admit it could be her last gift.

Her nurse drives her to Buffalo to shop for gifts.
Wrapped up in pillows and blankets from home,
the struggle is worth it for the mother.
The extra morphine eases her pain while she's out of bed,
and she's relieved to be focusing on this Christmas.
But her thoughts still wander to ones spent with her daughter,

and the long ago ones when she was a young daughter.
She knows her husband worries when she's not at home.
The next morning he tells her to stop all Christmas
shopping. He doesn't want her to fuss over gifts
just because she's the mother.
It's too snowy and cold. She should stay in bed.

When he leaves for work, she sits up in bed.
She feels like a teenager disobeying her mother
and father as she unfolds her Christmas
list (worn and crumpled). She sees most gifts
are checked-off, but not the one for her daughter.
She intends to find it before he gets home.

She convinces her nurse they'll be back home
in plenty of time. As it's close to Christmas
the nurse agrees and helps her out of bed.
She selects her perfect gift:
a hand-knit sweater for her teenage daughter.
(If only she could knit like her own mother.)

Except for one vital hitch, the mother
almost gets away with it. She's in bed
safe and sound, before her husband or daughter
walk through the door. Content with her gift,
she doesn't know that while away from home
she caught pneumonia. That very Christmas

Day the mother dies (in a Fort Erie hospital bed,
not at home like she wanted). At the funeral her last gift
is worn by her daughter, three days after Christmas.

Catherine Graham's works copyright © to the author.

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