Wednesday, February 3
“And I learn about gratitude
My niece Terri wrote these words. Her poems focus me; get me to a “there” where I breathe — inhale and exhale — not hurrying. “Octogenarian,” takes me into the world of a little girl learning that intense love and fresh discoveries can live close to approaching death. And leave grace alive over years that follow.
Mid-day in this work week. Blessings on your day.
I was nine that summer
when you taught me satiated.
It came after precocious
and pernicious, but was obviously
and immediately the best word yet.
We refill the drinks with extra ice, cool ourselves
with condensation, that slick of sweat dripping down
our glasses. You proffer crackers; I decline,
satiated and smug about it. You shuffle and deal, while the sun
slowly loses its glower in the Menomonee River.
I place each card carefully, fingers splayed,
intent. I hunch a bit, slanting my anticipation
toward the deck in those gnarled fingers, toward
the sheen of sun on water, the road and the bridge,
the cities on the far side, toward you.
It doesn’t matter what we play: 66, gin rummy,
cribbage, even two hands of solitaire, laid out
like opposing armies or fields fresh planted, seven shirts
spaced out on each side of the clothesline, falling straight,
quiet in the fading heat.
You hold your cards loosely, competent,
a word from last summer, but you don’t
always win. I learn to bridge the cards without
spraying any into the porch screen,
dragonflies darting toward the river.
I learn about matrimony from the thin band
embedded in the swollen skin of your ring finger, about eternity
from the way you refer to Grandpa as though
he were still here. And I learn about gratitude
without noticing, even how to spell it.
Some things though I didn’t learn, like when you taught me
octogenarian and I thought it meant
a person eight decades old, thought
it meant you at your next birthday, never comprehending
that it really meant
you would leave me someday.