For My Grandmother
I didn’t have time to listen to you on Wednesday, December 2nd, because there were five feet of snow in the streets and I had two miles to walk to get my coffee. You asked me for fifteen minutes of my time, help opening a jar of strawberry jam, and a hug good-bye. I was too rushed for the first request and, in hindsight, too cold-hearted for the last. I didn’t look back as I shuffled through the snow down the street, but I know what I would have seen had I glanced over my shoulder. You would be standing in the window, your arthritic hand holding the curtains aside, and your emphyzemic breath would be leaving circles of fog on the glass. You would have that sad smile on your face that longed for days when I was five years old, when I would diligently eat your pancakes and dramatically announce the start of my favorite, and therefore your favorite, cartoon.
You would stay standing there until I had turned three corners and was ordering my medium roast with soy milk and hazelnut syrup. And then you would normally finish your last few bites of toast, or feed them to my dog, and take out your knitting so that you would have company in the form of your needles and yarn.
Only that December morning, you didn’t do any of those things. Instead, you would pen a note across the entire month of December on my mother’s religiously organized calendar. Then, you would give my dog the forehead kiss that I had been too busy for, sit down on my grandpa’s favorite armchair, and fall back asleep.
But I’m ready to listen to you now, two months too late. Your letters, photos and videotapes have captured my attention, so tell me the story I finally have time for. I read it everywhere, in your unfinished scarf, your antiquated wedding photo, and the stains of your last coffee on newsprint.
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