Monday, March 20, 2017

Grandma

Today, my family and I buried our grandmother. I miss her so much. I asked to say some words at the funeral. Because it's important, and because I believe in making important things public, here they are:

I started writing this in 2013 when I learned the details of my grandmother’s illness. The idea of living in a world without her is still very strange.

In so many ways, I’ve always wanted to be like my grandmother. Boots is the grandest, most gracious, and openhearted person I’ve had the good fortune to be shaped by. She’s always made time for not just me but all of her grandchildren and great-grand children. I’m thankful for every lunch date, every movie, every play, every card, and every phone call. Her presence filled rooms. She ignited me and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say she ignited the world of everyone she met.

She wanted to support me in my pursuits but went out of her way to explain she never demanded my attention. She made sure shy grandchildren like me were the ones who came first, that we became confident individuals rather than shadows. Boots never wanted to use us as a crutch or become a burden. Nothing could be further from the truth. She was always, and I hope will be remembered as, a delight.

She looked up to her parents, an opera singer and a doctor. One of the cornerstones of her life was the legacy of her father, Dr. David Kallman, a young immigrant from Lithuania who traveled to the US as a teenager. You could tell he was the light of her life the way she’s been the light of mine. When I was young, I remember visiting his grave with her to put a stone on it at Lakeview Cemetery. Afterward, in the car while she was close to tears, she told me her father always said that after his death, “I will live through you.”

I think of this story now because I believe Boots did the same thing. If one of the reasons humans are here is to leave an impression on our friends and relations before we fade back into the dark, she’s more than done that. Her spirit and vigor helped craft the people her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren have turned out to be, enriching our minds with art, theater, and her good taste, making the neural pathways, the individual brain patterns and movements of the heart, that became us.

Her passion has impacted myself and, consequently, all those with whom I’ve interacted. The mark she’s made will continue to affect those I meet for the remainder of my own days and those who will come after me who I, in turn, affect. In this way, I know for sure she’s immortal. All of her family and friends are her, carrying the presence she’s invested in us.

My grandmother’s body, however, became tired. She knew this for years, mentioning the people she thought about every day who have left us and which material items she’s gained in the course of her days that she wanted us to have. I see her life as a long, beautiful party but I think she was ready to call it a day. Not everyone gets to reach that point. The last time I saw her, she was drifting in and out of sleep, recalling fondly that my cousin Lesley and her daughter Louise would be visiting later in the week. She began to sing the song “Louise” soon after before she closed her eyes again. That was her all over.

There are rare people who combine all the qualities Boots had. Her unabashed nostalgia, the intensity of her love, and her warmth made her into a rare sort of person. I’m so proud to be her granddaughter, a conductor of the electricity that ran through her, a keeper of her light long after the source has gone out.
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

40 Days of Poetry

Though I'm not Catholic, for Lent, I'm writing a poem a day with a group of friends, mostly from college. Here are some samples of what I've been doing:


Laverna

[With thanks to Scott Fitzgerald & Yvonne Keeley - If I Had Words and the ever-so similar Saint-Saƫns - Symphony No. 3: "Organ Symphony"]

Roman goddess of thieves,
may each dark shadow protect your face,
falling cool like water
to cloak your grace.

I don't call for wisdom,
art, or inspiration
but sleight of hand
and imitation.

I could pray to gods below
and muses high
but I come to you
as a writer magpie

who steals scraps of detail
whether new or archaic
reassembling pieces
into mosaic.

Laverna, let me take sunlight,
recreate a day for you.
Guide me to the right fragments
golden and new.


Grandma

"You will recognize the comforter on grandma's bed," Mom writes.
My old comforter from high school is floral light and dark blue with some green.
"A spare for years," she adds.
She and my father got a call that my grandmother was very cold
and my dad ran it over to her in the home.

She had been sleeping a lot, Mom says.
My uncle calls it "twilight sleep."

I will see her on Thursday though I am already with her, I tell myself.
In every way that matters, she's always been with me.


Grandma II

Grandma is stretched out on the couch,
eyes slightly open as she dozes.
She goes in and out of dreams.

Her legs are so thin, I think.
The aide tells me she still drinks cranberry juice,
eats soup with thick broth,
and goes to the weekly news segments in the home.
She wants to know what's happening in the world.
She continues to insist on getting her hair done.

Grandma tells me about my cousin who will be visiting soon
and bringing her daughter,
my grandma's seventh great-grand-daughter,
Louise.

Grandma sings Dean Martin:
"Every little breeze seems to whisper Louise
Birds in the trees twitter Louise."

I give her a Valentine's card
and a poem I wrote for her.
She doesn't let either go
even as she slips back asleep.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Hourlies 2017


As I prepare for Boskone and balance it with activism and art, like last year and the year before, I did a set of hourly comics on February 1st! Enjoy!
Cat-mornings and pre-work anxiety. Also, enjoy "Rubric" by Philip Glass.