Her Lists

Her Lists
by Joy Johnston

My mother’s lists were extensions of her personality. They could be found anywhere and everywhere. On the kitchen counter. Inside a bathroom cabinet. By the door. In her purse. In a book. She scribbled notes on anything. Day-Glo post-it notes. Scraps of stray paper. Backs of cardboard box tops. Sometimes taped together to form a Super List.

She didn’t have dementia. How could she forget anything when she had reminders for everything? Check mail. Take pills. Charge phone. Call sister. Call plumber. Call daughter. Watch General Hospital at 2 p.m. on Channel 7 Monday through Friday.

Her shopping lists required a decoder ring. Items circled and starred. Highlighter used for emphasis. Check dates! On anything remotely perishable. Compare prices! On anything possibly on sale. She wanted two—and only two—bananas. Ripe she ordered the avocado to be. Coupon was her favorite word and appeared liberally. So did the Wite-Out because she deemed her lists worthy of corrections.

I dreaded being handed one of her lists, expected to fulfill her regimented longings.

She’s been gone eight years now. I too create lists. On a smartphone app. With checkboxes.

   □ Bread
   □ Chips
   □ Fruit
   □ Fish
   □ Cheese

No corrections necessary.


Joy Johnston is an author and caregiver advocate based in Atlanta. She received the 2015 Rick Bragg Prize for Nonfiction from the Atlanta Writers Club. Her collection of essays about family caregiving, The Reluctant Caregiver, received a gold medal at the 2018 IPPY Awards. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies. Her latest work, Slow Dog, is her first children’s book.

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