Spinning Yarns

Jun 24  |  Shirley Hay

Diva watched a row of dentures pop into place on her phone screen. Her father was usually toothless, this call must be special. Two hands, probably the nurse’s, pulled gently at his shoulders, but he pushed her off.

When are you picking me up? His voice was murky, like he was in the middle of a swallow. She hesitated, wishing she could see his eyes. His face was much too close to the camera. Diva? She flinched in surprise. He remembered her name this time. At least the name he gave her.

Just a year old and such a little diva when I found you at your mother’s hem! He’d told her the same story for decades. He’d just started as the on-site property manager of Dilberry Manor and was instructed to evict 4D for missing three months’ rent. When her mother had opened the door, there was Diva – a bra on her head and markers on her cheeks, tottering in a pair of black velvet heels. I couldn’t evict a baby! Especially not you! He always said this with a toothy grin, before the dentures. He’d packed them up that very day, moving Diva and her mother into his small, furnished two-bedroom apartment. A couple of months later the building was sold to new owners and no one knew they weren’t a real family. But that’s how we became one, he liked to say before kissing the top of her head.

At least until a year later, when Diva’s mother died.

One too many swigs of the bottle, he finally told Diva when she was eleven. His eyes were shadows then, so she stopped asking questions. But that night he left a box of her mother’s things outside her door. Inside was a brush and comb in a small box with a rosebud painted on the lid. The bristles were full of hair.

I’m going to the movies, her father said now, turning toward the nurse so all Diva could see was an ear and wisps of grey hair. Yes, Mr. Ward. I know! How exciting! The nurse’s voice was tired and artificial.

So, it was going to be a movie this time, was it? She knew he’d forget the plan before she arrived at the nursing home, but still it was nice to imagine sitting together in the theatre again. Movies had always been their thing. Afterwards, he’d tell her stories about his life before she came into the picture. Sometimes he was a POW, or sometimes a survival expert, or an art professor. Her father never failed to spin a good yarn, and Diva didn’t trust a single word from his lips. Living with his dementia wasn’t really such a leap.

The doctors said he didn’t have much time left. She would wait to take the DNA sample until after she’d been called to pack up the remnants of his life. His dentures would do nicely. Then she’d take that and some of the hair from the rosebud brush under her bed and submit it all to the lab. It might not tell her everything, but only some truths were necessary.

Let’s see “Rocky”, Diva said then, guessing the decade. Her father grinned, showing off both rows of teeth before leaning back in his chair.

His eyes still sparkled.