Sunday, September 24, 2006


Is grieving ever simple?  A year gone since your leaving.  I try to hear your voice and find I simply can’t recall the way it sounded.  On other days it comes to me, when I am standing at the sink or walking quickly down the street saying nothing in particular.  We were never close.


And yet you must have left your bed several hundred times to put your foot upon the freezing floor because I called your name.  I cannot forget the way your tender fingers curled my hair, or how you baked a birthday cake with money for my friends. 


We were never close.  You sent me off to boarding school and I was never angry.  How could I be?  You sent me off with chocolate bars, homemade cookies, lozenges in case my throat got sore.  And if you did not recognize the older girl who stepped back into your house, you muddled through as best you could, knowing she had grown too old for the dolls you bought for Christmas.  


We were never close.  I did not tell you when I met the man who was to be my mate.  I waited till you heard it through the grapevine, and knew that you were hurt but offered no apology.  And I recall the way you made my wedding dress without a pattern, improvising every tuck to get the dress I wanted, though you had no time for anything because I had not left you any.  You bought me a piano, just because I wanted one.


We were never close.  You rarely phoned, so I called you, but never spoke the details of my life, my work, the things that mattered most to me.  You would not understand.  And I recall the raspberries you grew, and picked, and canned for me in little jars.  You never said that I should grow and pick and can my own now that I was grown.


We were never close.  I shook my head in disbelief the day you suddenly began to act as if your mother needed you.  For you were never close to her.  She embarrassed you; you used to say, by having babies year after year, long after you were having babies of your own.  So why now were you serving her, helping her, when you were tired from doing all the other things you had to do?


We were never close.  But then one day you could not walk and every day was worse for you, and I recalled the things you did for mothers.  So I set aside my plans because you wanted me.  We laughed and cried and cheered and pined.  I’d never been the nursing kind.  Through all the months we fought only once, not a new fight,, a re-enactment of an old one, shorter than any other.  There was no time to hold a grudge. 


And I remember many nights when you would call and I would will you back to sleep, then rise to sooth you lest you come fully awake and stay that way for hours and hours while I recited poetry and sang you songs and stroked your hand and rang your bell to bring the nurses to your bed.  And I remember one last night when I had been away a while.  You were waiting there for me, just to see me one more time, just to say my name again, with a tongue that could not form a word, through lips as dry as autumn leaves, as dry as prairie dust.  We were never closer than that night.  I stayed with nothing left to say, you willed yourself to go.  


Today I pause to think of you, the quilts you made, the flowers you grew, the voice that read a book to me, the fears that never set you free.  A year gone since your leaving, and I am simply grieving.


Anonymous said...

This is a really powerful story about a relationship between loved ones that isn't always perfect. I heard you tell it at a conference and was inspired to read it again here.

Laurie said...

This story made me cry. I feel so much the same way about her. I am your neice and I am so proud of you and your sisters, especially my mom. Your story Sandra is a teacher was wonderful too. She is my strength and my insiration. Sometimes in life we all have to feel a little pain and a few bumps to make us see how lucky we are and how important it is to live life to the fullest, and appreciate all of life's simple gifts. Keep up the good stories, I will visit often, and who knows, maybe even start my own blog.