I've been writing a lot of stories about other people and other beings lately. I decided to finally put something down on paper about my father's father. I'd been kicking around the lines "getting older doesn’t kill you. / But you do get better at fooling people" for a while. They only made sense in a poem about Pop.
The last time I saw Pop up and about, really being himself, was in September before he passed. We were out in his backyard picking grapes. Actually, I was eating a lot more than I was picking, but at least they were coming off the vines.
for my grandfather
When you died I was not there.
My father, standing in your kitchen
sorted through Readers Digest westerns,
peach preserves, junk mail.
My mother, sitting next to your bed,
checked your pulse, and it was still.
When you died it was two weeks since
the last time I saw you—just after Christmas.
You were aggravated. We’d bought you socks, but
you didn’t need any more things.
And after that, you didn’t need
to see your granddaughters again.
When you died I was not there, but
I kept thinking about picking grapes
in your backyard—how spiders built nets
between the vines and the leaves,
how they popped out suddenly, possessive
of the muted red and purple fruit I reached for
and dropped into a plastic bucket.
I kept thinking about you waking up,
saying just kidding--
getting older doesn’t kill you.
But you do get better at fooling people.
When you died you were 93--
you told me you wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
You planned your own funeral—didn’t want the fuss,
But my father dressed you in flannel and
put your reading glasses around your neck anyway.
There were pine cones and pine branches and no flowers.
When you died I was not there, and you wanted it that way.
The thing about your wine grapes was the tough skin.
You couldn’t chew them, but you could crush out all the sweetness
before discarding the shell.