It’s a strange time we find ourselves in – but you knew that. All the talk of respirators has me thinking about an earlier time when my heart took on the rhythm of my grandson’s breath and my life seemed to hang from the lines that followed one another across a screen.
I’m definitely not a poet, but here’s my response to a writing assignment that seems apropos today.
Write a poem, you say.
Start with an emotion and the person,
place or thing that evokes the emotion,
you say. It will be fun, you say.
There ought to be a word for grief and joy combined.
I had a grandson, and that says
all and nothing at all.
The first time I met him, he was
all surprised eyes and fingers
fit for chasing chords across the keys.
Hello, I said,
and then I saw his long limp little self.
A flurry of activity marked him a problem
to be solved, and I held my breath
while he struggled to find his.
And later when he lay,
swaddled like a little lima bean,
respirator rudely interrupting,
he fixed his milky gaze on me and there it was,
the hinge my life would swing around.
Would I love this wise-eyed child,
destined to leave before his time?
Yes, oh yes, and in a moment – I was lost,
and being lost, was found.
I loved my children, of course I did,
with a warm and homely sort of love.
They were my darlings and my dears, beautiful brilliant girls.
But I was unprepared
for this soaring swooping stomach in the mouth sensation
that opened me
every time he smiled.
I would do anything to see him smile.
For nine years, I was advocate,
nurse, field marshal, singer of off-key songs,
fetcher of forgotten toys.
I was incandescent.
Gabriel, my grandson,
my beloved boy,
was handsome and smart, funny and wise.
He charmed everyone he met. But he couldn’t stay.
When he told me, “I’m afraid I’m dying,”
we talked about a place where bodies work and time is different.
I’ll see you soon, I told him.
Today he runs on bright green grass, while I wait here for soon.
There should be a word for grief and joy combined.