After her husband died, Zita decided to get the face-lift she had always wanted. Halfway through the operation, her blood pressure started to drop, and they had to stop. When Zita tried to fasten her seat belt for her sad drive home, she threw out her shoulder. Back at the hospital the doctor examined her and found cancer run rampant throughout her shoulder and arm and elsewhere. Radiation followed. And, now, Zita just sits there in her beauty parlor, bald, crying and crying.

My mother tells me all this on the phone, and I say: Mother, who is Zita?

And my mother says, I am Zita. All my life I have been Zita, bald and crying. And you, my son, who should have known me best, thought I was nothing but your mother.

But, Mother, I say, I am dying….

James Tate, “Distance from Loved Ones”