Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ode to My Grandmother on Her 103rd Birthday

There’s such a thing as too old,
There really is
, you confided,
And I nodded, willingly enough.
(I did not believe, and you knew it.)
But I’m older, now, each day closer
To understanding, to sight.
I saw darkness fall, shuttering
Your sickly eyes, your waiting books.
You mourned them silently,
As was your way. A sigh here,
Another there, the breath
Barely audible. (I heard.)
All my friends are dead,
You announced, one morning
Over coffee, as sunlight striped
Photos of all the smiling grands
And greats. Then you made a choice:
You shook with mirth, and irony.
I adored you in that minute,
Your rueful crooked grin, your
Belief in the privacy of grief
Undimmed by age, by familiar pain,
Though you did place withered hands
On broken knees, and wince. (I saw.)
Once it was your gift to make a thing
From air, or dirt. You spun silk
Indoors before ten, outdoors at four.
I studied. Chagrined, I discovered
I hadn’t inherited your skill or ease.
You forgave me then, and later.
You found an old typewriter, set me free.
Write a letter, to your dad,
You said, Or something else.
I chose else. Soon I thrust paper near
Your whirling form. You stopped to read.
Hmm, you offered, a little pleased.
Much later I found that poem,
If one could call it that,
Among my father’s papers. You’d
Sent it on to him, that very day.
Dick, you’d scrawled,
This one likes her words.
The September night you lay dying,
I drove an unfamiliar route, just
So I might reach you in time. But
Nearly lost, I registered a voice,
My sister’s, choked: I, you, hadn’t made it.
I sobbed on the shoulder of I-78.
You were one hundred and one years old
When you died, too old for your liking,
But not, ever, for ours. Where you live now,
Can you be of use? I imagine you so.
I watch you wheel from this to that,
I watch your busy hands. They fly.
written in 2010

5 comments:

Nicole said...

This is very lovely, Sarah. I lost my grandma this past November and I miss her all the time.

Amanda said...

Oh, this.

So beautiful and, I don't know, familiar? Maybe for its honesty.

I remember having less grace than you show here and feeling angry at my grandfather for not staying with us.

I miss him so.

alejna said...

So beautiful, Sarah. My eyes are full of tears. For your grandmother, and for my own. So strange for me to realize that she would have been 104. I hadn't thought to do the math, and she has been gone many years.

I am grateful to your grandmother for encouraging you to love your words. Because now I get to love them, too.

Please keep writing.

Alexandra Rosas said...

You have just made me decide, I have to write a letter to my abuela. My wonderful, incredible grandmother, who told me that seeing me was like communion to a dying man. This was stellar. Can you imagine, if someone ever holds us in this esteem? I can't think of a life more well lived.

Christine said...

she would love your writing sarah. xo