My Mother’s Umbrella Stand

By Claudia M. Reder

My sister says not to send her any more journal entries
about our mother. They are too sad and she won’t read them.

But how else will we remember 
each phone call summoning us 
to the chill of each ER, 
and figuring out how to secure a bed; 

and you, sister, who counted her pills each week,
wasn’t rehab like a John Cage Production?
Call buttons lit up like a score board. 
A woman in slippers attached to a squeaky IV.
An elderly gentleman calling out in the parking garage
I don’t know where I am.

Just then the elegant doctor in his expensive lime green shirt 
and Brooks Brothers silk tie enters the room.
Mother compliments him on his wardrobe.
He affirms her sense of aristocratic decency and style.  

The names of nurses rotate on the white board.
I take to this new sense of order
knowing that Henry will be on at 5 tonight, 
and Lola has a three-year-old daughter.

When the young social worker asked our mother, Are you happy here?
She protested, If anyone says they’re happy here, they’d be insane!

My sister, how else would people know of this history of our mother who never wanted to die homeless, alone, and penniless, who had always kept a $50.00 bill in her umbrella stand to give to someone who helped her, even the pizza man?

She could be anyone’s mother
sliding down the hospital bed
until her neck disappears,
out of her mouth the small sound of her pain.

Claudia M. Reder

Claudia M. Reder is the author of How to Disappear, a poetic memoir (Blue Light Press, 2019), Uncertain Earth (Finishing Line Press), and My Father & Miro (Bright Hill Press). How to Disappear was awarded first prize in the Pinnacle and Feathered Quill awards.  She was awarded the Charlotte Newberger Poetry Prize from Lilith Magazine, and two literary fellowships from the Pennsylvania Arts Council. She attended Millay Colony, NAPA Writer’s Conference and The Valley. She recently retired from teaching at California State University at Channel Islands, where she included poetry and storytelling in her classes. Her poetry ms. Appointment with Worry was a finalist for the Inlandia Institute Hillary Gravendyk Prize. You can find more information at: and

One Comment

  1. Wonderful poem. Such an essential portrait of the last stages of a mother’s life.

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