The Burglar

by Patricia Podlipec

When she asked the same question three times
in ten minutes, I rolled my eyes and sighed.

Then she insisted a burglar had loosened the light with
plans to break in that night, I disagreed. She slapped me.

Now I punch in the code to open
the door to the world of stolen memories,

search among gray heads and stooped
bodies. Whiffs of urine fill the air. I find
her hunched in a wheelchair, slumped in sleep,
shake her shoulder to wake her, say hello.

Sunken eyes flicker, stare, unaware.
I hold her hands, rub them with
lotion to smooth and soothe her skin.

Hands that made crunchy apple crisps,
green beans with bacon grease and sugar,
sewed seams on fine fabric and painted

watercolor pictures. I pretend to understand
her garbled words and senseless jabber,
recall her long-ago small talk with neighbors,
the funny stories she used to tell.

Her raspy voice grows quiet, eyes close
as we return to the comfort of dreams.

Patricia Podlipec was a first-grade teacher for over twenty years. After retiring, she and her husband moved from Wisconsin to Hendersonville, NC. Her poems and prose have appeared in Kakalak, Clothes Lines, and Western North Carolina Woman. Recently one of her poems won Honorable Mention and publication in the Heart Poetry Contest for the fall 2009 issue of Heart Magazine by Nostalgia Press.

About The Burglar—For ten years, my mother's struggle with Alzheimer's Disease was a painful experience for the whole family. I have felt guilt in not recognizing the symptoms when they first appeared. I was finally able to express some of those feelings in the form of poetry.