Kathy Fagan: At the Champion Avenue Low-Income Senior & Child Care Services Center

At the Champion Avenue Low-Income Senior & Child Care Services Center
—Kathy Fagan

When I told them it must be like dropping your
kid
off at school their first day, all my parent friends
nodded and smiled uncomfortably, meaning

what would I know. I won’t be taking
solace
in the many firsts ahead. Here among the gray,
spotted and brown heads of the seniors,
their soft flesh and angles, their obedience as
they
sit as uprightly as they are able at white, parallel
tables, nobody cries, and very few
speak.
When I seat dad beside her, one senior tells me
she’s ninety-four, presenting one hand, four
fingers in the air, just as she might have ninety
years ago with a stranger like me, now long gone.

Dad never liked me to talk:
Lower your voice, he’d say. If I was louder:
Put on your boxing gloves. Or: You’ll catch
more flies with honey than vinegar, as if some
day
I’d need the flies. I stopped talking, started
writing instead. I work full-time and dad wants to die,
so I dropped him at the Champion Avenue Low-income Senior & Child Care Services
Center,
a newish building, municipal and nondescript,
in a neighborhood that’s been razed and rebuilt
so often
it’s got no discernible character left. There was bingo,
men playing poker in a corner. Red sauce and
cheese
on white bread pizza for lunch. Dad, a big
talker,
was an instant hit, but refused to return. What
is the name of that animal, someone asked me.
Where is Philip, asked someone else, over and
over.
As if firsts and lasts were one and the same.”
—Kathy Fagan.