june 2 calabash -4
What We Took With Us When We Moved Away
by Joan Leotta

After our son died,
My husband set
a retirement date.
We sold our Virginia home;
began building a
house in NC.

I packed up,
giving away objects
no longer relevant,
to our lives,
cleaning out papers,
while my husband
fought the traffic to and from
his last days at work.
At night we rested together
in the shadow of happy memories.

The last room to sort
was our son’s. When
I pulled open the door
to vacuum behind it,
I discovered that
on his final sojourn
at home, he had carved
his name in the drywall.
In that small space
behind the door,
he had scratched,
“Joe was here.”
Suddenly, our son was
physically present for me.
I traced his words with my finger,
feeling his presence in the
now profound silly message.
Was there a hint of blue in those letters?
Had he used an old pen to gouge
into that pseudo plaster?
I flopped down on the carpet,
swept off my feet
by a flood of my own tears.
How could I leave behind
that bit of wall where his self,  his
humor were so strongly present?
All packing stopped.
Just a few days later,
Our brother-in-law visited.
He brought a saw.
He cut out the piece of drywall
with Joey’s statement; then
spackled and patched the wall
back to perfection
for the new owners.

I packed my treasured artifact
in a clear glass case.
We brought it to our new house.
Sometimes, now, I lift up the glass to
trace again the lines
of our son’s handiwork.
“Joe was here.”
Though he never knew this
house, we brought him with us
on that bit of sheetrock.
Sorrow, happy memories —
we brought it all.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Our new house in North Carolina, now a home.Photo was taken in 2009 — saw the rainbow right after coming home from a trip.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We moved to North Carolina from Virginia a year after our son died, Actually we sold the house that had been our family home and lived for a year in an apartment while our new house was being built. I dreaded leaving that piece of wallboard with Joey’s little etching behind And, yes, my brother-in-law did come and cut it out for us. And, yes, I do have it here with me. Even though I know our son is always near, in my heart, having that bit of board, being able to take it with me helped me be able to leave one home and feel free to make our new house into a home with happy memories and new memories with our daughter and with just the two of us.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta writes poetry and prose, performs stories for children and adults and muses and amuses herself at the beach. Follow her writing exploits and the making and publication journey of her second picture book , Summer in a Bowl, on joanleotta.wordpress.com.