Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Who Came Before You
My father lost partial hearing
in the middle of the night.
He woke up deaf in one ear,
shaking his head like a swimmer.
Now he has taken to playing solitaire,
and the cards stay on the table like a chess game.
Mother cooks and cleans and dumps thistle seed into the bird feeder
and replaces the battery in her cow cookie jar,
(the mournful moo) so she can catch the sneak.
But it isn’t Dad.
The only memory I have of my maternal grandfather
is him sitting at the table playing solitaire
with a curious knob in his ear,
while we nabbed cookies out of the cookie jar.
I have no memory of his voice, or his laughter or his work,
his coming in from the field, perspiring and flushed,
although I know he did these things . . . before me.
I don’t like my father’s hearing aid,
the way it amplifies background noise
and takes him out of the mix at the dinner table
where he used to drive the conversation,
the way he buries himself in the newspaper and doesn’t
say hello when you come in the back door.
The way the grandchildren I don’t yet have
won’t know him.