Grace Paley

I Invited

I invited my mother and father into my dream
which included a table   chairs   a record player
an early evening hospitality   my
friends say that their parents are always present
to pester the night with little pearls of acid advice
my parents are not like that

I wanted to see my mother and father
together    They appeared    they organized their bodies
slowly they saw each other before they were
aware of me    She looked at him   my god   Zenya
how old you’ve grown in these forty years she said
also much shorter     is it true you never married?
my father was embarrassed    he was probably ashamed
to have outlived her    by so many years
What could they say?    then thank goodness they
remembered their own children
Well of course   he said    You knew the first little one
at least you gave her some pretty tight hugs
and kissed her from head to toe    The other one my son
a good man he worries
about my health    he asks me   do you have a fever
are you still coughing?   he was a doctor too
he lived long        
                           my mother was amazed

my father says why not   It’s common in this country
even I with a vicious heart attack lived to be eighty-nine
my mother says   my god   eighty-nine?
all those years did you think    of me?
all the time   he said    at my eightieth birthday I 
told everybody I owe everything to you
that was very nice she said    reaching out
you were working so hard I didn’t think you remembered me
from one day to the next