Remembering Grandma at the Thirtieth School Reunion
When children guessed her age, I guess they might have guessed a million,
for her skin was fried and wrinkled and her manner most reptilian.
Her humor was peculiar—ribald, clever, sly.
Her whiskered chin was wobbly. She was rheumy in one eye.
When she talked about the old days and when people really listened,
her face seemed somehow younger and her eyes sparkled and glistened,
but she sputtered over S’s and dribbled when she talked.
She listed, lurched and wobbled. She zigzagged when she walked.
She loved her old blue tennis shoes with laces hanging down—
the only shoes she wore when she chose to go to town.
Still, her corns rubbed and her toes hurt. She preferred feet that were bare,
so she very rarely moved about once planted in her chair.
When her children brought her meals to her, they couldn’t linger long.
She couldn’t quite remember what it was that she’d done wrong.
Her grandkids liked her better and endured her bitter wit.
She taught them Chinese Checkers and some of them to knit,
but as they aged they visited less and less and less.
They didn’t like the odors. They didn’t like the mess.
And finally, as youngest, only I was able
to bear sitting with Grandma at her Chinese checkers table.
Only I could stand all the complaints and labored sighs—
all of the self-pity that shone out of her eyes.
But later, as a teen-ager, my visits, too, grew less.
Busy with my friends and school and other things, I guess.
And for all the years after she died, I thought about the years
when even I deserted her and I was brought to tears,
until my thirtieth class reunion, when a classmate I’d not seen
since we graduated, and for all the years between,
told a tale I’d never heard that made me realize
that there was more to life than what met my ears and eyes.
When television, new to town, kept Grandma company,
wild cats from her old henhouse came to sit upon her knee,
and the kids from the next corner also came to see,
for with ten kids in the family, they didn’t have TV.
It grew into a ritual. When they saw the sheen
emanating from the light of her TV screen,
they’d all drop in to see her and they’d stay until their pop
walked down from their house to bring their viewing to a stop.
Only the oldest daughter got to stay there until ten,
watching shows with Grandma—pretty ladies, handsome men,
cowboy shows and orchestras, adventure and romance.
They watched their favorite characters shoot and kiss and dance.
“We kids all called her Grandma,” my old classmate confessed.
That she’d had this second family, our family hadn’t guessed.
So all those nights I thought that she’d been sitting all alone,
she’d been surrounded by her minions, like a queen upon her throne.
It seems the true facts of our past by memory can’t be gauged,
for sometimes history is rewritten and our consciences assuaged.