I don’t know much about my Granny
except that she could sew,
she held grudges,
and she broke her arm
taking her turn starting the Model T;
and the hand crank whipped back and hit her.
They did that, I heard more than once.
I’ve never started a Model T
but she warned me:
“When you go to crank it, Jamie,
you can’t be scared
or it will come back on you and
break your arm.”
Maybe that’s life in general:
it senses fear and hesitation
and makes you pay.
I know that when Paw was courting her
he had to drive
ten miles down dirt tracks
we wouldn’t dignify by calling them roads.
He liked to tell how he spent the night in his car
when he high-centered it
creeping through a bog after a rain.
The next morning a sharecropper
used his team of mules
to pull the car out of the mud.
Paw was late, but she married him anyway.
Granny was the love of his life
but my god, was she hard. She loved him,
I know, but the only people she never
criticized were me
and my father.
Polio nearly killed my father when he was nine,
but instead took his legs.
Granny devoted her life
to him forever after,
to the exclusion of
When he married my mother
“He’s your responsibility now.”
But he wasn’t, not really;
she never let go.
six months and ten days
after he did.
Granny worked twenty years for the government
and handled so much paper
that she wore her fingerprints off.
They say that isn’t possible,
but I know it is.
She loved antiques; Victorian furniture
and glass were her favorites.
I think she never saw a chair
that couldn’t be improved by re-upholstering
in jewel-toned velvet fabric.
From her I got my fondness
for antique light fixtures and
heavy, dark furniture, intricately carved
with flowers. I have no place
or use for either of those things,
but they take up
space in my head.
This probably applies to life as well:
the things we inherit take up space in our heads,
long after the people
who gave them