It was Halloween and they were the last group
of trick-or-treaters to come to the door.
We heard them drive up,
Doors slamming at the driveway’s end.
Way out here?
Their whole demeanor was one of familiarity,
But none of them appeared that way.
To me they could have been anyone,
Dismissing my lack of recognition was not hard,
For children age and, though spare, they wore costumes.
How odd, though, that the oldest, a pretty princess in blue gown,
Called me by name and obviously expected return in kind
Then the mother stuck her head round the edge of the door
And made a pleasant greeting, which I do not recall.
She was blond, like our next door neighbor,
And I thought it might be her.
But it really didn’t look much like her
And her children are all grown by now.
I suffer a learning disability,
Discovered by accident, years after I became a math professor
When I decided to take a test
I commonly sent my students for.
The story’s long,
And the topic awkward,
For, ’til then, I wasn’t so sure there was
anything to the “disability” label.
All this I’d have to explain:
My motivation for taking the test,
The way I was killing it,
The exact part I failed,
What I learned
What I regret,
How I try to make it fit in how I now teach,
If I were to own the fact that these people were out of joint;
They might as well be strangers on a train.
Well, How I used to teach.
How I’m retired now.
Bitterly retired now,
Reunited only to be care taken
No, there are children present,
No need to visit painful things.
So I held back a bit,
And did not say “Cathy” out loud.
Good thing, too, for soon she gave a hint,
Seeing both my wife and I rack our brains.
“How do you like what they’ve done to our house?”
Across the street and down two doors!
That was them!
What was the name?
The house I knew right away, for the new owners
Had stripped the old one to the foundation
And built a mansion this summer.
I knew this woman, and
the family too.
Seven kids, I think,
Math instructor and good friend’s Brady bunch
Schnakenberger’s old house..
Gifters of that great couch that only needed cleaning
and now sits in storage awaiting my return.
Co-owner of a trinket store and coffee shop downtown.
What is her name?
Barbara has, or had all along,
the hint, but never knew them so well as I.
I’m the social one.
I love children.
It’s my responsibility, knowing and saying the name
for her to hear.
But my brain is blank,
my conversation stilted, covering my frantic scan.
Perhaps I should just admit the truth.
But then the whole story would need be told.
No. Not there.
I will not go.
“A.” I think it starts with A.
Just as they walk away, I grasp at “Anne,”
and use it in muffled breath as goodbyes are said,
For it doesn’t feel quite right.
“What was their name?”
We ask as soon as they’re gone,
Both secure in who they were,
for the hint was good and the knowledge full.
But the name’s not there.
In the night it comes to me,
Too little and too late.
Her name was Annette.
So, what’s the deal here, anyway?
Anyone can forget.
We could have had them in,
Been hospitable and caught up.
Instead awkwardness prevailed,
And bad role modeling ruled the day.
For the kids knew as surely as the adults,
“They didn’t recognize us at all.”
Worse, that is not true.
We had only lost their names.
The context was yet quite clear.
How much better it would have been if only I had owned up.
Facing inadequacy is such a strong trait,
One to get us through.
How much better it would have been to admit,
I am human, too.
Time grows shorter,
I have to stop going down these paths.
How much better it would have been if only I had owned up?
How much better still
It would have been if only I had remembered
“Her name was Annette.”