She would feel the Presence directly behind her,
Breath tingling the nape of her neck.
"Death approaches from the left," she'd read.
The Presence wasn't Death.
Once, in the birthing room,
Barely two years before her mother's passing,
The Presence had come to her,
Helped her disconnect the pain,
Kept her mind busy with words of
The Nature of gods.
Now it was the only mother left to her.
She, always a side-curling sleeper,
Would feel one lock lifted,
A cold sensation of air underneath,
Then the tress would be dropped.
Tense, awake, she would wait for another sign,
Another message of insight,
Some reason for the Presence's interest in her hair.
She was dissatisfied by its silence.
Later, she remembered a toddler game,
Favorite of her maternal grandfather,
Played regularly by her mother,
Brought over from Sweden by earlier ancestors.
Child positioned on lap,
The teasing elder would raise a rearward plait,
Murmur words, daring the child to respond.
The words meant, "I love you."
But that puzzle wasn't solved until her own daughter was born.
"You'd better not do that," was the challenge.
Her daughter, intrigued as she had been,
Wriggles from lap to back to repeat the ritual.
Child taking the mother's stance,
Giving the parent's command,
Giggling at her own audacity
And her mother's attempts to prevent the role reversal.
Repositioning the child for repetition,
"This do in remembrance of your great-grandfather,
Your grandmother, and me," she whispers to her toddler.
Prickles at the back of her neck complete a deja vu.
The Presence, finally honored, moves on.