if i had to compile memories of you
they would be like patches on a quilt
complete enough on their own, sure,
but so much more vivid once twined into one
my memories of us are technicolor, probably bigger in my memory
than reality but still so true
square one: a weekly visit to the ice cream counter
square two: another weekly visit, this time to the library. i would walk out of the children’s room with a staggering pile of books. you never told me no. you never said go put one back. you simpley said enjoy.
later, we’d cross the military base to the commissary where I was afforded one treat. hours later, i’d curl onto the floor of my bedroom, book and peanut brittle in hand. years later, reading leisurely is still my treasure. you gave me that.
square three: that time i fell out of my desk at school and got in trouble. she did it on purpose, my teacher screamed, she did it to embarrass me, she insisted. as if the embarrassment she experienced because of my fall was more significant than what i experienced as an awkward eighth grade girl. when mamacita yelled at the assistant principal that i was not a behavior problem (and perhaps implying that she could be) and he told you to quiet her, to control your wife, you looked back, unabashed. she is her mother, you told him, and you are in the wrong.
square four: i am going on my first real date. as i spend the afternoon in my bedroom trying on every inch of clothing i own in order to find just the right outfit- cute but not trying too hard is the look i am going for- you come in with something cupped in your hands. we gotta talk, nena, you tell me, and i am horrified. your hands open to reveal a quarter. a quarter, you tell me, that you want me to put between my knees and not let drop until i am married. point taken. years later, my friends, who all love you, will mail you quarters as they get married.
square five: we are in Washington DC to celebrate Veterans Day. just sixteen, i didn’t want to come. not because i had anything that much better to do at home but because i knew that seeing this part of you, the wounded veteran who spent six graphic years in war for your country, would be too much for me to take. in the end, it was the president not showing up for his scheduled appearance and the way that it disappointed you and all your comrades in arms that was too much for me to take. hours later, when the news reported that the president was on his ranch in Texas for a little r&r, I ran to the television and turned it off before you heard. i cannot protect you the way you have protected me, but i will do the best i can.
square six: that war brings you cancer. as i ride the highways between our houses to accompany you to every appointment, every treatment, you place trust in me that is so great, i am humbled by the pressure. in the midst of this all, the chemotherapy, the external radiation, the internal radiation, the biopsies, the scans, you buy yourself a new car. what’s the rush I ask you. i still have places to go, you tell me.
square seven: i place my sweet Ethiopian boy in your arms. he looks just like me, you whisper. and, of course, he does. because, interestingly enough, he does. but also because you, sweet man, make everyone yours.
square eight: after all we have been through in the past two weeks, you lock eyes with your physical therapist after you stand for the first time, wobbly, legs like a colt learning his way, and say, “i walked into this place, i am walking out of it.” not one of us doubts you, papito. when it comes to you, papito, all of us believe.