a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Monday, March 28, 2011

Going through Grandpa's House with Mom

The hardest part wasn’t
losing him.
The hardest part was
watching Mom lose him.

I walk with her through the empty house.
Each room is
filled with memories
of uncles, aunts, and cousins gathering.
of playing with Grandma’s Lite Brite
at the kitchen table.
of watching Nickelodeon in the dining room,
back before we had cable at home.
of selecting the stuffed wind-up lamb off the couch in the living room,
my Easter gift, and a nighttime comfort for so many years.

However, layered beneath those memories,
at the heart of Grandpa’s house,
is another generation’s history. 
A history made of three brothers
and their baby sister, Susan.
of dinners crowded around the kitchen table,
where baby Susan had to snatch up all she wanted
before her brothers devoured every last crumb.
of annual Christmas visits
from Grandpa’s Doghouse Club buddy
dressed up as Santa.
of playing cowboys,
or riding a stick horse as a cowgirl,
or even pretending to be the horse itself.

I think about the memories Mom must be seeing
in each room we pass through.

I follow her up to the attic,
to her old bedroom. 
We find a box filled with cards,
an old telegram—a love note from Grandpa to Grandma,
and pages of Grandpa’s writing—skits, jokes, anecdotes.
These pages hold the secrets
of the writer who lives in my bones. 

We head to the garage,
I find a bowling pin—
a memento of Grandpa’s years as manager
of Bleeker’s Bowling Lanes.

In the basement, behind Grandpa’s bar,
I find a metal cart—
a reminder of his practical side.

I gather each of my treasures
and pack them into the car.
But I know Grandpa left me
with much more than his words,
a bowling pin,
and a cart. 

He left me baby Susan.
I look at Mom,
I see the memories of my past.
I listen to Mom,
I see the memories of her past.

I haven’t lost him,
and neither has she.


  1. I love your opening lines - frames the whole piece and the image of the "writer who lives in my bones". This is a poem that is a journey of the heart.

  2. Your descriptions of treasured items and events portray such strong memories. A well written piece that tugged at my heart.

  3. Such lovely, & loving, words. I love the verse where you talk of your grandpa's words, whose pages 'hold the secrets of the writer who lives in my bones'. You took us on a special walk.

  4. I started a novel in grad school that dealt with the memories contained in things--in houses--in artifacts. I read extensively in preparation and discovered more often than not that people didn't fight over the big stuff when the parents died--they fought over the Happy Birthday Plate, or grandpa's easy chair. They fought over things that carried memories.

    Your poem captures this in its perfectly tuned descriptions of place, and time and memory. If I ever get that novel written, I may write you to use this poem somewhere.

    Elizabeth E.

  5. P.S. Are we going to lose each other after Slicing is Over? Write to me:


    I don't even know your first name!

    Carrie and I are friends on FB--are you on FB?

  6. A wonderful yet dramatic poem was driven into the poetic mind of your soul. How long did it take for you to finish this? I tell you this, Grandpa's very glad you made this poem.

  7. Awww! What a touching poem! I almost cried, Christy! Really, no kidding. Grandparents hold a special place in our hearts simply because they always want to give joy to their grandkids. They are known to spoil their grandchildren. Did he spoil you before, Christy?