I remember my grandparents
George and Lucille.
My memories of them are dim and faded,
seen through a fog of childhood.
Pieces of papyrus,
a fragment here or there.
I remember visiting them
with my father.
She would mail me knitted Barbie clothes
I can see her, in my mind,
even before I knew what it was.
Could my need to create,
to work with my hands,
be a gift passed on from her?
When I was seven,
their lives ended,
when a young man
set fire to their house.
What I only realized last week,
was that at the age of about 37,
my father lost both his parents.
I remember my grandmother.
I remember her as tall
even though she was only 5'4".
She held herself tall.
She was born with a hole in her heart.
Which made her seem frail, weak.
But isn't it a sign of a life of strength,
to live 51 years with a damaged heart?
To survive science-fiction inspired surgery,
to repair the problem?
Open heart surgery in 1968.
To live through the loss of three babies?
Her body was weak,
but she was not.
The doctors told her that her heart had enlarged,
to try to compensate for its challenge.
I can believe it.
She loved everyone.
She even loved my cousin.
As addicted and lost as he is,
he still knows that our grandmother
She died when fluid overpowered her lungs.
Congestive heart failure.
Her heart was not a failure.
It was a triumph.
I remember my grandfather.
He always seemed big to me.
He worked in coal mines
and then in construction.
He was intimidating.
He yelled (at the world, not at me),
He smoked, until he gave them up,
in a bargain with God,
to try to save the life of his wife.
I remember arguing with him one day
(discussion -- not hurtful fighting)
over whether women should work in coal mines.
"She's taking a man's job."
"If she has the job, it's a woman's job."
I'm not sure he completely understood me,
but that's OK.
I remember the surprise of finding out
that he used trigonometry in his job.
I remember him falling to his knees in grief,
over the loss of my grandmother.
He liked trains and watches.
He like flea markets.
His father lived to be almost 100,
until he was hit by a car.
My grandfather should have lived a long life,
but coal dust, emphysema, asthma and
gave birth to cancer.
The second time it killed him.
The last time I saw him
was at my wedding.
It's a gift to have that memory.