Family Matters

“All children are my children. I teach them the songs and whatever else I can. That’s what Grandmothers are for – to teach songs and tell stories and show them the right berries to pick and roots to dig. And also to give them all the love they can stand. No better job in the world than being Grandmother.”
Leila Fisher (Hoh)

It started with a head injury:

my father’s great grandfather, a night watchman

patrolling in the darkness when a drunk

clocked him with a metal lantern.

Erratic ever after, prone to sudden

bursts of rage, his family discovered

the calming technique of placing

my two-year-old father on the old man’s

lap. That prompted lullabies and soothed

the beast. I’d always found

this story charming when my gregarious

father told it.  At least, until the day

my grandson rushed into the office, only

securing my father’s attention by

scampering behind the computer

desk amid the jumble of wires. The roar

drew my protective swoop, separating

the two, perplexed by this inordinate

yet familiar fury, intent on saving

the innocent. I underestimated

this child’s compassionate wisdom.

He waited a few weeks,

at first ignoring my father’s overtures,

the blues he sang obviously inauthentic.

As advances grew

progressively kinder, I watched them

move to the country of healing.

The old man’s heart finally open,

it’s time to rock ‘n’ roll today.

My grandson runs into the room.

“Don’t scare Grandpa,” I call

so my father is ready, manufacturing

surprise when he feels a poke.

Giggling, the two-year-old master teacher

withdraws a few feet, curling into a ball,

the sportsman’s invitation to play.

When my father pounces with a shout,

the child screams in delight and runs

runs, runs to the safety of my lap.

We huddle in a blanket. “Scary!”

He declares. His heart is pounding.

Eyes wide, we watch the monster

approach. “Stop,” he commands.

And when it appears his boundary won’t

be respected — my father advances —

I throw up my palms, as well.

“Stop!” I plead, and add, “This is base!

We’re safe!” Ah, yes, the rules of sports.

He retreats.

We cuddle until our heartbeats calm.

And then the experiment repeats.

My warning song, the scream,

the panicked flight. Over and over.

Now crawling fast

over an ottoman, creating an obstacle

course, his pursuer always a step behind.

My mother is crying, she is laughing

so hard. My inner two-year-old perks

her ears at this uncharted territory,

learning how to feel this huge emotion safely.

At last I see the true story of the monster

my father had to comfort

when the frightened females in his family

placed his innocence like an offering

into the lap of the madman. And how he had

to take it in, keep it simmering for

this very opportunity. How often

do we miss the quintessential teaching

embodied in a toddler, the strong brave

heart offering to heal the gaping wounds

long papered over by our tales, yet

so obvious to this tuned-in being?

The energy worker of few words: the emphatic

“No!” and the passionate “Yes!”

He felled the demons

of seven generations with one exuberant

swoop. The figures — that I’ve spent decades

painstakingly setting up on my altar

of healing intentions — topple like dominos.

You can bet the ancestors are feeling

these embraces. “Hugs,” he commands

before he leaves.

Word Of The Day Challenge: Gregarious

Daily Addictions Prompt: Plead

I recycle 2016 Daily Word Prompts: Darkness

FOWC Prompt: Quintessential

Ragtag Prompt: Embrace

3TC: Country, Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll

A Spin Through Time

We wear the burdens of our ancestors’ trauma in unexamined layers. Our hidden history is alive. We can repeat the same horrific patterns or we can look, re-member, and connect. ~ Victoria Stuart 

My grandfather’s Model-A was the only car

in the neighborhood in 1930. He could afford

it as a carpenter needed

to reach even the most distant sites

and fast. Decades later, his grandson flew

over oceans, in a private airplane to inspect

and give his blessing to potential projects.

Like an evanescent dream coded in our DNA

the road ahead demands we recycle

the rejected past. When he was 2, in 1900,

my mother’s father often sat in the lap

of his 100-year-old great-grandmother, lulled

by her rocking chair, wide open to receive

what was never later investigated. Just family

tales. She arrived by covered wagon at eight;

her father felled trees — long venerated and circled

around — to widen the paths

Natives had used for generations.

Her spine-tingling recounting of people

lingering despite the laws and guns,

the forced marches to leave, the whites

uneasy at night, having built

their cabins in orchards lovingly planted

by people they called savages

to hide their guilt and shame.

Have the original inhabitants vanished

without a trace? Ah, no, I hear

voices at the 4th of July barbecue,

masking in snark and malice

the fear of immigrants;

at the root, the unspeakable: what if

we

let them in

and they do to us

what we did to them,

then rewrite a history

from which we are drastically curtailed?

Fandango’s Prompt: Curtail

Alan’s Recycling Bin: Layers

Daily Addictions Prompt: Afford

3TC: Model A, Road, Airplane

Word of the Day Challenge: Evanescent

RDP Trace