When I can no longer grasp the tweezers to pull at the fine, blond blades between my eyebrows, please look closely. Pluck them all—imagine them as the weeds in the garden we never got to, the sumac growing up through the rhododendron. The mole on my left cheek—if you see me run my fingers over it as though I can still feel a hair breaking through, ask me about it before my finger rubs it raw. The tiny stubborn hairs beneath our chins that my mother and I fuss about, pull harder on those.

Humor me when I want to show our boys what my handwriting used to be, a specific if unwieldy cursive/print hybrid.

Two ice cubes in my coffee, please. Black. Please sit with me with a mug of water or milk in your hands if you don’t want any. Pretend it is coffee. Our son Johnny likes his with two scoops of hot chocolate and some sugar if you make it for him.

Please leave some lamps glowing from their corners so I can see on my way up to bed. They are beacons, and the dogs who love me have become obstacles.

Please don’t stop trimming my nails if I joke that you’ve gotten my finger. I still like to laugh.

For our son Sam, sometimes sneak him a snack at night. Make your way from the kitchen, up the stairs, through the laundry room by night light, tap softly on the door or call “Sam-Sam” so as not to scare him.

Please make sure I’m not wearing flip flops if I insist on some summer night that I can walk home. If I trip over the train tracks, ice my lip before I look in a mirror. Clean the blood before I taste copper.

Please scrub my scalp with shampoo and let the suds rinse through, but don’t shampoo the ends. No sulfates, please.

Brush my tongue as well as my teeth.

In the summer, run the razor up my shins and over my knees, and be careful around the ankles. Think of that space like the tender underside where your jaw turns to neck.

Please don’t let anyone convince you that I will be cured of this disease if a swarm of bees stings me. I know not to swat. I’ve made an art of being careful.

As our pets age, please don’t scold our old German Shepherd who loses control of her bowels. Show the old girl mercy, lift her nose from its angle toward the floor. Remember how she fishtails through the yard. Consider the tail she can no longer move, how it hangs like a dead branch when it used to wag.

When it thunders, I want to be wheeled to the porch. It is okay—even preferable—if the rain turns sideways and soaks my hair. I want to watch lightning over the church steeples. You don’t have to stay outside with me when the sun goes down and the mosquitos start their long drain, but please light a candle and offer me a book.

Open the curtains each morning, please. Even, and especially, in winter. I want to see what I can’t feel—shadows on snow dunes, shoe tracks on sidewalks—and know it is all still there. Ask me to shovel the walkway and pretend I’ve done it. Thank me, please, for the mulligatawny you’ve made for dinner, and remind me how it makes the house smell, like those old days. Give me time to blow on each spoonful before you tip it into my mouth.

Sarah Cedeño’s work has appeared in The Journal2 BridgesThe PinchThe Baltimore ReviewNew World WritingThe Rumpus, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere.  She teaches writing at SUNY Brockport and lives just a block away with her husband, two sons, German shepherd, and cranky old cat.

Photo by Amy Selwyn