Gerda Govine Ituarte
Gerda Govine Ituarte is the author of three poetry collections, her work appears in numerous anthologies, d she reads in poetry venues in Southern California and in international events. She established the Pasadena Rose Poets in 2016, initiated poetry readings at Pasadena City Council meetings and brings poetry within reach in unexpected places.
Her latest book Future Awakes in Mouth of Now, is available from Swan World Press, Paris, France. Order your copy by clicking here.
Mom said, "I’m 94 years old, tired and ready to leave. I’m not giving permission for
chemo or a cut on my body. I am living with cancer. I’ll die with cancer."
I tell Mom—I’ll see you tomorrow. I love you. I have a happy and sinking feeling. The
next morning, I got “the phone call.” Dale, my first cousin, said, "Your Mom passed
away this morning."
I arrive in Florida that night. Dale, my Mom’s executor, picks me up. A new kind
of loneliness. It’s been years since I visited the family compound where privacy
tripped and secrets tip-toed. My mom and her three sisters (all gone) lived
shouting distance from each other, first in St. Thomas Virgin Island, New York,
and three cities in Florida. They were best friends; combative and envious. They
took care of each other when illness intruded. No backs turned, even when there
were long stretches of “I’m not talking to. . .” My four uncles learned how to be
nimble and pivot.
The next morning, we talk over breakfast while sadness, loss and emptiness ebb
and flow. Zeslie, one of my Mom’s closest friends, and Dale, followed my mother’s
explicit written instructions to make sure there would be no loose ends. We visit
the funeral home. The director shows me the casket Mom chose years ago. He
asked, “Do you want to change it to another one?” I reply, Even if the casket was
heart shaped, I am not going against her wishes.
Dennis, Dale’s younger brother, invites us for lunch at his home. He is a retired
Marine. Cousin Sofia, my oldest cousin and the only smoker in the family, arrive.
Her sense of humor and thick skin keeps her puffing. She walks with a cane,
survived her husband and youngest son. We eat Virgin Islands food: stewed
chicken, pigeon peas and rice, plantains, johnnycake and salad. Our St.
Thomanian accents fall into place as we catch up and tell stories while silence
and glances touch down gently.
The main topic of conversation is my Mom, the beautiful one; complicated, wise,
and no-nonsense, and crazy making even when love rode her shoulders bare
back. That evening Dale drives to Mom’s apartment complex. He asked “Are you
OK staying here by yourself?” It is my first time in her apartment. I feel strange. I
look in her closet, spot a new black dress. It is not her size. I try it on. It fits
(c)2018 Gerda Govine Ituarte