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My dad has forgotten my name.
He’s tired from working in the yard
but stands from his chair on the patio
lifted by delight as if someone
flipped on the switch
for the lights and music, cued
a party to begin.
“Well, look who’s here!”
he says, smiling for all the world.
“It’s my lucky day.”
My dad can’t sort out which day it is
or what time, and doesn’t remember
whether or not he’s had his lunch.
But he can sort the cards in his hand.
Dementia hasn’t stolen those from him yet.
“Where’s your mom?” he has asked
nineteen times in the last fifty-five minutes
as we play rummy. I can’t help
but keep count. “Running errands,” I say
again. He responds with a smile again.
“I’m lucky,” he says. “To have your mom.”
He looks me in the eye,
serious, “I’ve been lucky,
you know, my whole life.”
My dad has one card left
after laying down a jack of hearts
on his eight-through-ten run.
“Your turn,” he says.
I draw a card and wonder
if my mom is stuck in traffic,
discard my queen.
He picks up the queen and grins,
“You could have played that.”
As if he’s still teaching me—the one
who taught me how electricity
works, how living things sprout
and grow, how to tie a knot,
hammer a nail, how to swim
in the deep end.
He snaps the queen
into place next to his jack
and discards out.
“I win,” he declares,
surprised. “You know,
my memory’s not so good
anymore. I got lucky.”
My dad has always been good at cards
with his quick mind, his ability to focus,
to calculate far into the future.
I remember how he bought
snow tires for my car
after I moved to Colorado, wired
the light on my porch
when he came to visit, drove
his truck slow with my son, ten days old,
strapped into the back seat.
He fixed the broken trellis, put in
a new kitchen sink
and a ceiling fan in the bedroom
after my daughter was born.
“You still want to play?” he asks.
I nod, gather up the cards,
give the deck to him to shuffle.
The cards make an arc
between his work-battered hands,
fold perfectly into place
making a neat stack.
He furrows his brow
with concentration, deals slowly
back and forth, until
there are seven cards each
on the table between us.
“Me too, Dad.” I pick up my cards
and smile. “I got lucky too.”
Oregon East Magazine
Hoke Center #328
Eastern Oregon University
La Grande, OR 97850
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