saturday (love letters)

My parents found a stack of poems in my grandfather’s things. They slid them into a manila envelope and brought them to me on one of their visits. I looked through them at the time, in more detail later, and then tucked them into a drawer in my room. I few weekends ago, on a cold, gray Saturday afternoon, I was cleaning and organizing some drawers and I came across the envelope again. I opened the clasp and slid the pages out across the bed.

I had been thinking about so many things as I was cleaning. Springtime, sun. The changes coming soon in the garden. Planning details around upcoming travel. What I was making for dinner later that day. I read a few of the poems again in that moment, and the threads between his scribbled cursive four decades ago and the current tumbling in my head were so clear that I stayed in that spot until I had read every last word. I carried the stack downstairs and read a few aloud to M.

Is it possible to be so loved as to inspire these morning notes, written on the backs of discarded letters and scraps of paper? There is a daily series of poems leading up to my birth; another countdown each morning for the two weeks leading up to my first Christmas. We lived four states apart at that time – before cell phones and text messages and instant photo sharing across that span. He never showed me this writing, but he saved each one in a stack, and it moved with them from Missouri, to Kentucky; into a house, an apartment, a room.

I have never doubted how much my grandfather loved me. When we were together we took up the same space. I spread across the branch of the tree that held the hammock where he reclined. I curled into his side on the basement couch watching baseball or golf on the television. I woke early and walked down the beach with him as the sun rose when I was very little. I can conjure up an image or two from those mornings, even though I was very small at the time. I can remember driving over to his house once a week during my summer internship to have lunch. I remember the wooden bowl in the center of the table full of fruit. He peeled and sliced a piece for me each visit while I ate lunch. That bowl sits in my kitchen now, still full of fruit we share after dinner each night.

The Span
9/4/76


The days measure it.
   The weeks and months give it bulk.
      The years speak of the true distance.
         The generations filter the time.

And the span,
   Which reaches from me to Kristin
Tells the story:

I in years;
   She in months.

I in age;
   She in new discovery
      Of sound
         And sense.

The span is great;
But with the passing of the years
Her discoveries;
   My delight.

An Afternoon Nap
4/5/77 (Our visit to celebrate my second birthday on 4/7)

For Kristin and her
   Grandfather
An afternoon nap
   Fulfills a need:

For her…
   A child’s sleep

For me…
   Nearness and reflections

A Morning Walk
8/11/76 – (Mexico Beach – I am 16 months old, and we are at the beach together. Mexico Beach was devastated last year by a hurricane.)

The sun had won,
Reaching the shifting sand before the two of us.
But early,
We had wandered to the shoreline
And began a meandering stroll.
She, aged only by weeks and months,
   I, by years.
She, caught be the spell of shells and sand and sea
   I, mesmerized by her.
I know, it sounds like more…
   Almost too much.
It was just a morning walk…
   Our finds:
      Our shells,
         Our sand,
            Our sea.

A morning walk
   For Kristin and me.

Green Beans and Ice Cream
(Hopkinsville, KY – 4/16/76 – we must have met up here, as this seems close to the halfway point between where I lived and he lived at the time. I’ve just turned one. This is my favorite.)

She journeyed from the east,
And I from the south.
She in the company of her parents,
I with wife and daughter.
Our rendevous was set
The menu was prepared.
Roads were traveled
The “board” awaited.
She had just turned one
My years beyond her count,
Just yet.
Our destination shared
Was an evening meal,
And so we met.
Now I do not remember what was offered
I did not tally up the fare
The time was not considered
And other company was there.

But of these things
I am sure:
Kristin came to Hopkinsville
So did her old granddad
We ordered from the menu

Green beans and good ice cream
And that is what we had.

An excerpt from An October Day – 1975
(10/7/75 – I love this whole poem – he’s written it to me on my six month birthday – it makes me think of my garden walks, and I will forever carry this last piece with me on my walks from this point forward.)

O God,
That beauty might welcome her
Each day.
And, with bounty,
Make potential real.

saturday (away)

I had grand plans to put a post together earlier this week to be “ahead of the game”. It was a sweet one, and was perfect for a week focused on love. But I didn’t feel too great on Tuesday, and slept poorly all week, and more urgent things arose in the place of planning ahead. It was more of a treading water sort of week.

And now I’m away from a computer – hooray! – for the weekend, and I don’t enjoy texting on a phone keyboard, let alone blogging from one. So this will be short and sweet. I mostly wanted to say how much I appreciate you reading here again, your thoughtful comments, and emails, and notes you’ve sent. It feels good to connect again in this way, and to return to the ritual of writing.

And reading! I’m slow at it these days, but I’m tearing through a collection of essays today, and sitting in sunny spots whenever possible, like this one next to my girl, bass player just behind us. Glorious.

saturday (theater love and just love)

I thought I was going to write about something else today, but I decided to save it for another week after watching two different shows recently with a common thread.

Last weekend M came home from the grocery with a movie disc from Red Box – it was out of character for him, but he was walking out of the store and saw a particular movie advertised on the dispenser, and remembered that E had mentioned wanting to see it. So he rented it on the spot and brought it home. We started it up that night after F had gone to bed. I was working on something on the computer in the back room – which also happens to be the location of our only TV – and E and M were sitting in the only two chairs we have in that room. After a few minutes she climbed into the same chair with her dad, because that’s what they do. Even at nine and fifteen, both girls are still cuddle bugs.

The movie was Call Me By Your Name – I wasn’t familiar with it, but was excited to see that the story was set in Lombardy, Italy, and the villa and surrounds were so lovely. E didn’t know much about it either, but had heard from several trusted sources that it was a great movie – a coming of age story about a teen aged boy and an older visiting graduate student of his father’s. It was the kind of movie I would have died watching with my parents (if we would have watched it together, which we wouldn’t have).  But despite the fairly explicit sex scenes, and my general uneasiness around the age spread of Elio (17) and Oliver (24) – maybe mostly because the actors looked much younger / older than the characters they were playing – the movie was so good, and also painful and poignant and difficult to watch.

There is a scene with the father and his heartbroken son at the end of the movie that left us all breathless. I can’t remember the last time I watched a scene like that – so raw and intimate and everything that you could never imagine a father saying in a moment like this but everything that you wish that every father could say. We were silent in the room, and then M finally broke it saying “well, the entire movie was worth it just for that scene,” and E and I nodded, and I couldn’t believe how he spoke the words aloud that my heart was nearly screaming.

In that moment I realized just how grateful I was to be in that room with them. That somehow the wishes that we outlined in rough letter form and awkward whisper-prayers when they were babies seemed real – that they would know that we are open and listening and excited to share anything and everything that they are curious or enthusiastic or passionate about. That our home is a safe space for any conversation. And seat sharing is not only encouraged, but delighted in! What an extraordinary gift this part of parenting is. I had no idea.

…..

A few nights later M and I were sitting in theater seats, watching Fiddler on the Roof at the Fox. I had confessed that I wasn’t really excited about our tickets that night – partly because it was Wednesday night, I was exhausted, it was freezing cold, and I was finding it hard to rally for a late night out. But the main reason was because we’d recently seen Fiddler at the Muny, and then the main scenes / numbers again as a part of Jerome Robbins’ Broadway production. It felt like a too-soon repeat to get really excited about.

But the Fox show was completely different – mostly because we were so close to the stage that Tevye was standing directly in front of us for many of the key solo scenes in the musical. It’s such a phenomenal role, and Yehezkel Lazarov was spectacularly funny, but the moments where he is working things out in his head by speaking them aloud – on the other hand… on the other hand… – those were my favorite parts of all. As each of his daughters begin to chart her own path, he’s forced into this pacing and reckoning and relinquishing of power and authority. At the root of this reckoning is love, despite his animated denials.

He loves her. Love, it’s a new style… On the other hand, our old ways were once new, weren’t they?

…..

M and E are watching Dear Evan Hansen together as I type this – and I’m both envious of their time together again in the theater, and grateful for it. I won’t be there to watch them, or to feel the power of another story about love and loss, missteps and redemption. But they are there, and that’s enough. What extraordinary gifts this week brought, the whole lot of them.