Reenactment

I’m exhausted after crossing state lines by bus today. My Uncle J (of blessed memory) just passed away, and the funeral is tomorrow. My cousins who don’t live in town are making their way here now. We will converge at the cemetery in the morning, and there will be a lot of hugging – my mom’s side of the family is populous and loving.

Tonight I’m on my own, sleeping on the twin mattress that Young J usually sleeps on. But it’s in the living room for a change. My parents’ living room, which used to be my paternal grandparents’ living room, when they lived in this same apartment. And I’m right about in the spot where I would sleep on their couch, when I slept over, when I was ten or twelve. I loved exploring their bookshelves and closets, looking at old photo albums, even seeing their his-and-hers dentures in cups in the bathroom. 

My grandparents moved to this country late in life, and needed to learn English, so sometimes I answered spelling or grammar questions for them. It was exciting to me when my grandmother was reading one of my favorite Judy Blume books, Tiger Eyes. 

Tonight I’m staring up at the reflection of the night light on the ceiling, and thinking of all the things that came to pass between that last time I slept at my grandparents’ house, and this night. When you do that things tend to whoosh past, like a newspaper on microfilm. I wonder, is this how it feels when life ends? Does it clunk to an end, like you’ve reached the center of a film reel?

I’m also thinking of William Carlos Williams’ poem, so I’ll leave you with that now, as I drift off and find out whether I’ll have the same dreams ten year old me had.

The Last Words of My English Grandmother

There were some dirty plates
and a glass of milk
beside her on a small table
near the rank, disheveled bed—

Wrinkled and nearly blind
she lay and snored
rousing with anger in her tones
to cry for food,

Gimme something to eat—
They’re starving me—
I’m all right I won’t go
to the hospital. No, no, no

Give me something to eat
Let me take you
to the hospital, I said
and after you are well

you can do as you please.
She smiled, Yes
you do what you please first
then I can do what I please—

Oh, oh, oh! she cried
as the ambulance men lifted
her to the stretcher—
Is this what you call

making me comfortable?
By now her mind was clear—
Oh you think you’re smart
you young people,

she said, but I’ll tell you
you don’t know anything.
Then we started.
On the way

we passed a long row
of elms. She looked at them 
awhile out of
the ambulance window and said,

What are all those
fuzzy-looking things out there?
Trees? Well, I’m tired
of them and rolled her head away.

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2 thoughts on “Reenactment

  1. “When you do that things tend to whoosh past, like a newspaper on microfilm”, I love this line. The poem is beautiful and makes one think what it means to make someone comfortable. Don’t we do things for our loved one’s towards the end of their lives for our own sake? Ultimately we just want our own selves to be comfortable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I also think the poem is about the impossibility of truly making someone comfortable, when the inevitable is approaching. It isn’t comforting at all, but it feels accurate.

      Like

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