Her spine, like a shepherd’s crook . . . like a question mark—Am I still here?
“I won’t be long for this world,” Aunt Mildred keeps reminding us. Our lack of protest confirms her assertion. “That reminds me. Wait here,” she says and canes her way out of the kitchen where my brother and I sip coffee.
She used to cover this same table in newspapers and gather us kids around to paint and draw. “Fun with art!” she’d proclaim, scattering brushes and paints on the table. “You are all artists. Draw anything. Stick figures count.” And with her encouragements, we created fearlessly.
Brian made detailed race cars and Dora made abstract shapes no one could identify till she put eyes and sharp teeth on them. Ricky mixed his colors till they were just brown blobs spilling off his paper.
Aunt Mildred praised each one and hung them all over her walls. Since she taught art at the local high school we always accepted her praise, no matter how generous, as a professional assessment of our skills.
Now her arthritis keeps her from her brushes and charcoals, and all of our “masterpieces” lie stacked in trunks at our separate homes.
We discuss her insulin levels in whispers until she returns and seats herself across from us. She slides a worn pencil box, full of broken charcoals, used paintbrushes, colored pencil nubs, and worn erasers across the table toward us.
“These are for you.” She smiles as if she’d just given us new sports cars.
David Patteson teaches English and Creative Writing in Henrico County Public Schools. He also writes and illustrates graphic novels and has several poems forthcoming from River City Anthology. When he’s not writing he’s seeking independent music stations on his radio dial. He is also a member of James River Writers. Website: davidpatteson.wordpress.com
Image: Daniel Watson