I don’t know what it is about the damn toothbrush. Or why, when I sit down to write, it’s my mother that comes out. But it’s almost Christmas, and my brother said you need to help him; there are people coming over for christsake. So, ok. We went up for a day, and I started cleaning. From the back of the house, my father’s bedroom--their bedroom. Dust measurable in somewhat more than inches; I don’t think he’s been over the windowsills since she’d passed. His father’s picture on the bureau by the door; her father’s next to the jewelry box on the dresser. Both layered like a wedding cake in cigarette tar and dirt. Her slumped and emptied purse next the picture, likewise; perfume bottles (Elizabeth Arden) still uncapped (does he try to remember her scent as he sleeps, just a hint, hanging…?) The half-used bottles of lotion and body soap I gave her jumbled in an ornamental flower pot. They were the first to go—rightfully, I felt, as they were from me. Dumped in a plastic double Food Lion bag on the floor. And I moved on, to the adjoining bath—her bath—its pale still green tile. Her refuge the long tub, she never minding the rust smell in the water (we were from a well) hidden underneath the bubbled contents of all those bottles. No one else ever bathed there. Never have since. On the back of the toilet, another basket of her things: makeup, hairspray, more bath stuff—this I’ve picked from over the years (the Salon Selectives under my bathroom sink; the only shade of eyebrow pencil I’ve ever used). Bit by bit, diminished. But tonight I am feeling taller, and I toss without remorse: her deodorant on the windowsill-- gone. The L’Oreal on the tub’s edge, the Herbal Essences. All in the Food Lion bag they go. There’s nearly as much dust on the sink itself as there is in the tub, which is at least three times the thickness on the dressers. The toothpaste (Arm&Hammer) is almost flat. I toss it after the rest. The toothbrush bristles don’t stand quite straight after --I remember, now: helping her to the sink to brush her teeth, that last hospital morning—was it this brush? I thumb away the dust, wipe the sticky handled grime on the thighs of my jeans. And place it back on the sink’s edge.



Richmond, Virginia

Joanna Suzanne Lee is coming clean and saying, ok, maybe a few minutes more than 10 went into the editing. But that included the time taken to hunt & peck this up.