Elder Care

This morning, the coffee pot looked different,
my husband having switched out 
one gadget for another, far too complicated
for such an early hour. And so for a change, 
I make black tea with a satisfying plop of heavy cream, 
squall of sweetener, one test sip reminding me of Mrs. Torpey, 
and Mrs. McGrievy, and that tall, smiling lady my friend and I visited

after Catholic school. “Teens Serving the Elderly.” 
They only told us she’d lost her husband. Each time, 
in her basement apartment, she served us tea in frail china,
and I told her I’d never liked tea before I met her.
She put out Ritz crackers and sugared Danish cookies from a can,
showed us framed photos of her son in military uniform, 
barely mentioning her husband. 
The more tea we sipped, the more she poured. 
Once, I thought she teared up but couldn’t be sure.
After about six visits, she stopped having us come.
They said she was afraid she couldn't afford to feed us.

And now I’m remembering visiting those nursing homes 
where my great-grandmothers lived, where I first saw 
at a more tender age, not everyone is lucky enough
to have an apartment with visitors, that sometimes 
old ladies walk the halls holding hands,
cradle baby dolls, smile at each other and forget things.
And that one time I worked in a nursing home at 16, 
wails of Mrs. Lions filling THOSE halls, those walls. At 101, 
she cried, “Just let me die.” And Gertie, my favorite, whispering 
every time from her elvish mouth, “I love you,” 
finally slipping her tattered white bed tethers 
and falling on my watch. The trail of blood she left. 
I left soon after. And now as I near closer 

to that age forgetting, I wonder if I’ll recognize 
my own grown children, if I’ll wail and want to die, 
or tell people I love them, carry dolls like I carried my babies,
and if anyone will visit once my mind has slipped ITS tethers. 

I think there are worse things 
than rocking a plastic infant in your empty arms,
or offering strangers stale ribbon candy, or biscuits
and tea. I hope I tell people I love them. 
Or teach them to like something new.
I hope I never lose my wonder in the world,
even if I grieve my memory. But mostly 
I hope the world will remember me, FOR me,
keep me comfortable in my most vulnerable years. 

That is my wish for me. 
That is my wish for the elders.

-Katherine Gotthardt

Katherine Gotthardt

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, M.Ed., writing concentration, hails from the Northern Virginia/D.C. metro area. She considers herself a writer by nature and by trade, having begun writing for fun as soon as her mother helped teach her to read. An active part of the literary community, Katherine was a past-president and a founding member of Write by the Rails (WbtR), the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. Katherine has been a Prince William County Poet Laureate nominee and was the winner of Inside Nova’s 2019 and 2020 Best of Prince William award in the category of author. Her poetry and prose book Get Happy, Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World received a Silver Award from the Nonfiction Authors Association. Katherine's children’s book, A Crane Named Steve, hit number one in its category on Amazon in 2019. Katherine then took first place in the free verse category of Loudoun County Library Foundation’s 2020 Rhyme On poetry contest for her piece "Discussion Topic." The Prince William Arts Council and Poet Laureate Circle awarded her the 2020 Outstanding Poetry Project Award for her leadership in Write by the Rails' Poems Around Town poetry installation. In 2021 Katherine earned second place for "Aftermath" in a Poetry Society of Virginia national contest and the regional Seefeldt Award for Arts Excellence in the category of Individual Artist. She won first place in the Virginia Writers Club statewide Golden Nib contest in the poetry category for her poem "Kayak." Katherine was recognized as a PW Perspective 2021 DMV Best Business award winner in the category of author. In April 2023, Katherine’s poem “Now Entering Manassas” was the winner of Manassas, Virginia's adult “time capsule” poetry contest. Katherine read her poem at the 150th anniversary celebration, the translated version by Jorge de Villasante was read in Spanish by Bianca Menendez, her poem was published in Neighbors of Historic Manassas magazine, and it was included in the city’s time capsule. While Katherine is well-known for her poetry, she also has established a solid reputation for writing articles, columns and short fiction. She is published in dozens of journals and anthologies and has authored 12 books: Poems from the Battlefield, Furbily-Furld Takes on the World, Approaching Felonias Park, Weaker Than Water, Bury Me Under a Lilac, Late April, A Crane Named Steve, Get Happy, Dammit, D.C. Ekphrastic: Crisis of Faith, Thirty Years of Cardinals Calling, Get Happier, Dammit and We All Might Be Witches. She uses proceeds from her books to support giving back initiatives.
Scroll to Top