“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.
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.
Daily Addictions Prompt: Plead