Five Points Vol. 23, No. 1


Sample Content

Cathleen Daly
Fashion Show

My mother lies in bed, unable to walk anymore. She pleads with us for a fashion show.

“Try on my things,” she urges. “Sweaters, jewelry, coats—see what you like.” Mom motions toward two double doors in the hallway. My sisters and I scatter around her room like a small army of nurses—fluffing pillows and rearranging pill bottles, hoping to make some small difference. The oncologist called my father the day before, spreading the only word Dad could manage to repeat as he walked out of the room.

“Ok,” I mumble, walking into the hallway. “Mom, what about this?” I ask, returning with her black wool coat draped around my shoulders. It’s black with a ruffled collar and feels scratchy against my neck.

“Oh, you look chic,” she says with a weak smile. I’m standing next to the rail of her rented hospital bed. She reaches up to touch the side of my cheek. I burn the moment into memory—like a secret between us.

“Wear that to dinner,” Mom says softly, her eyes closing.

I imagine myself at her favorite Italian restaurant, Giovanni, wearing the coat. The collar still has a hint of her perfume. I wait at a table for two, trying not to watch the front door. I pretend she’s running late. The owner walks over a few minutes later and remembers me.

“How’s that pretty mother of yours feeling? My favorite customer,” he’d ask.

“She,” I’d try to explain. After a patch of silence he’d place his hand over his heart.

My sisters and I honor my mother’s wish. We find items in her closet that she won’t need anymore: a navy purse, a grey cashmere sweater, a beaded necklace. I know her things well—familiar like the small freckles on the back of her hand. I could tell you stories; a morning in the park when she wore her green scarf—an afternoon at the lake in her wide-brimmed hat.

The hospice nurse arrives to give my mother a sponge bath and another dose of morphine. My sisters and I linger after the nurse leaves, hovering around in the stillness with not much left to do. I add fresh water to a vase of pink roses on the dresser; my sister pulls out another blanket in case Mom gets cold.

My father sits with my mother in the mornings and evenings. But he leaves these last afternoons for us, her daughters, to stay close by while she drifts off to sleep. Years ago, when we were little and wrapped tightly in her soft arms, she did the same for us.