Elegy for My Grandfather, Charles Schultz
Though you were ever gentle,
when I was a little girl I was frightened
to be near you. A little deaf in one ear, you
barked and shouted, whirling
with a raised finger, a loud “Hey!”
before your smile, your joke.
I didn’t know you were (as you’d say)
tickled pink to have me there.
My visits to Kalamazoo were rare.
Each year or so, we’d go
with you and Grandma, to the Elks
Club where B.P.O.E. was emblazoned
over the door. “Biggest Pigs on Earth!”
you’d always say, with relish. Inside,
Grandma would inspect the tines of forks,
and adjust the drape of her mink
stole, which frightened me with its teeth,
thin and sharp, biting its own tail,
and its glassy eyes reflecting candlelight.
Grandma would carp and you would rail,
sotto voce, then order a round of velvet
Manhattans, a Shirley Temple for me
with three cherries. Sometimes you’d swirl
your drink with your short finger, pink-
domed, the one you’d lost because,
you said, you were a damned fool
not to turn the lawn mower off
before stooping to adjust the wheel.
I’d imagine that cut finger on its bed
of hacked grass. I’d gaze at the pickles,
the dripping ketchup. I’d go white. You’d laugh
and say, Oh, Hell! Hey! Any day
above ground is a good day!
You lived past ninety, held my daughter,
your only great-grandchild.
She doesn’t recall you as rough or mild
or remember you at all. Now, though, I can read
what you chose to blur or cut off from view.
Suffice to say, your father could be tough
and tan your hide no matter what you’d do.
Yet you survived, decided to join
a burly brotherhood, the fraternal Elks,
a new Order. Grandpa, now I can see you in that mirror
behind the bar, flipping a silver coin
in merriment—Protective and Benevolent.
In 2016, I published a collection of elegies that included one for my paternal grandmother (“Green Grapes”) but not one for Grandpa Schultz. This winter, I have finished–well, all but the final polish!–a crown of sonnets for this grandfather’s grandfather, a Civil War veteran. Last week, I dreamed about Grandpa Schultz. In my dream, he was shouting. Last night, I talked about that with my sister–and so, today’s prompt could not have been more timely for me. And, perhaps, for him. Leslie
(To the best of my knowledge, this image is in the public domain.)
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