For most of my life I’ve lived hundreds of miles and multiple states away from my grandparents, and for most of my life I’ve gotten back to see them about once a year. A relationship kept like that, in one-year snapshots, has a different sense of time and life passing. One year I’m a mousy elementary-school kid watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons and eating Honey Nut Cheerios with my cousins at Grammy‘s coffee table. Three visits (years) later, I’m an awkward junior-higher playing Grammy a song on the baby grand piano in that same living room. Click ahead a few more frames, and I’m a newlywed bringing my new husband to see the one constant physical place I’ve had in my life, Grammy’s house.
Then there are children to show her, my tiny branches from the family tree. They snuggle on her lap, then toddle on the floor, and they begin their own year-by-year memories of their great-grandmother, the only great-grandparent on my side of the family who they will remember. The other three died before my children could know them.
For many of the years past, Grammy has felt like the unchanging one, solid, always there, happy to see me, excited about all of the changes happening in my life. And always, every time since I showed her the first poem I wrote in junior high, asking me, “are you still writing? Are you still singing?”
In more recent years, Grammy has changed more noticeably. She remembers less, confuses the generations (my son is my brother, her grandchildren are her children . . .), talks more about the farm she grew up on, wonders where her parents are, can’t walk so well, doesn’t feel like eating . . . is generally growing out of life, “not long for this world,” as the old books used to put it. And still, each year when I visit, nearly the first thing out of her mouth when she sees me is “are you still writing? Are you still singing?”
And so I sing for her, and for my mother, for myself, for my children, because we are all not long for this world. We are all and each of us touched by every year, every age, but never held in its grasp. Always moving on . . .
Here’s my song for week 32 of #songaweek2016:
Fertile soil brittle seed
Tender shoot luscious fruit
Fading flower falling leaves
Grieving ground resting roots
This is happening
These seasons turning to years
These years laying down marks
Furrows plowed in flesh
Memories scattered like stars on the night sky of my mind
Every age may touch me
None will keep its grasp on me
I go on I go on I go on and on
Till I lay me down at last
In the great one’s arms