"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

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.

6 comments:

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Profound and beautiful. You have a gift for bringing things to the surface from the depths.
I remember an author who used to come to my mother-in-law's soirees. He was in his 90s and had lost most of his hearing, so he sat on the sofa, smiling bemusedly while a few people would try to shout conversations with him. It struck me as tragic that a brilliant man was isolated so.

Yvonne said...

Thank you so much Tricia. Yes, loss of hearing isolates one in a way most people don't realize. I used to think that if I had to lose one of my senses I could do without hearing. But now I know it would be as devastating as losing sight. Thanks again for your encouraging words.

Laura said...

Awww... that made me teary eyed! So lovely.

Yvonne said...

Thanks Laura!

Andrew Rhodes said...

So I have a blog for one of my English classes and i was checking yours just out of curiosity to see what you had written and when I found this I was a little bit upset. Not because of your spot-on descriptions of grandma and grandpa but because I can remember the way grandpa used to be and it never occurred to me all that had changed because of that one little piece of technology that was supposed to fix so many things but instead has apparently broken a man...Intense Auntie!!! but I loved it too! :)

Yvonne said...

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for reading. I haven't contributed here as much as I'd like to lately because the garden is taking so much of my time. Good luck with your English class. It was always my favorite subject.

Grandpa got a new hearing aid today. Let's keep our fingers crossed.