J. K. Durick is a writing teacher at the Community College of Vermont and an online writing tutor. His recent poems have appeared in Social Justice Poetry, Tuck Magazine, Stanzaic Stylings, Synchronized Chaos, and Autumn Sky Poetry.
Great Grandfather Dan
It’s really not hard to picture, but it’s a bit hard to take.
The article from The World, October 5, 1905 tells it in
the chatty style of newspapers of the time – says he was
“retired and wealthy,” only sixty-two, but had not been
himself for a time, his wife, my great grandmother, dying
suddenly, seven years before, left him grieving for his dear
wife and his two dead teenage sons, who earlier had been
killed in trolley accidents, two separate accidents – he must
have felt cursed. The reporter goes on “he had accumulated
a large fortune and it was thought that travel and rest would
bring him back to his normal self,” but not that day, that day
he told his family, his daughter and son-in-law, that he would
rather stay home, while they went driving in the park, he sat there
in his chair, he must have planned it well, then must have waited
a bit, till he was sure they were gone, must have thought about
his life, his wife, his children, summed it all up, and then he shot
himself, simply shot himself. Later his son-in-law found him
“dead in a chair in the parlor with a bullet wound in his head.
In his hands he clasped a revolver.” They covered it for a time,
Had several guests invited for dinner, told them he died of
heart failure and sent them away. I can imagine the scene,
the doorbell ringing its happy ring and their hesitantly going
to the door, a dead man in the parlor and a quickly made up
story to tell. Families are like that, we find them out finally
in old newspaper articles, like this, public exposure of private
doings, things they never talked about all the years, as if things
we don’t mention never really happened.
We can wade grief, toe deep, foot in, ankle in;
it splashes a bit, tugs, slows us; it’s easy enough,
but sometimes even that ease makes us uneasy;
knee deep though, waist deep, up to our chins in
it becomes an obstacle, we can bounce, thread in
it, and hold our heads up as best we can, and fear
the next wave of it, the wake others have left as
they go about their own business with it; we can
wade in for a time, but that never lasts all that long.
Send them off, they can cover so much distance,
turn corners, mend fences, cover the silences
we have left. Send them off to the parent we
have neglected, the spouse we have offended
or the neighbor they took away in an ambulance.
Send them to the hospital room, funeral home, or
anywhere they’re welcome, their fragrance fills in
the blank we left, their color distracts the eye, shifts
the thinking around them, makes promises, shines,
renews, refreshes, suggests alternate endings to what
has been happening, brings smiles, and even that note
along with them, the one the florist wrote pretending
to be us, the one he wrote after we gave our credit
card number over the phone, speaks volumes about
our intentions and wishes and what we hope they think
we think about them.