With the Edges of her Eyes


Today I’d like to share a poem I wrote about my maternal grandmother, who died in 1980, when I was only a senior in high school.

My grandmother was probably my favorite person on the planet.  I adored her and thought, as a teenager, that I could deal with just about any challenge, as long as it didn’t involve losing her.

Nana and I, two years before her death

My grandmother, born in 1903, was beautiful as a young girl:

However, when I was myself an adolescent, Nana fell and broke her hip.  She  was subsequently unable to reach her own feet, so when I visited her, my favorite place to stay in the summers, I often washed them for her–something I allude to in the poem that follows.

nana

(in memory of Martha Gilbert Kunkle)

we are oblique and
at odd angles:
     me at the feet
     i once washed
     on a regular basis
 
in the dream:
     she is getting older
                melting or
                shrinking
 
looking at me
only with the edges
     of her eyes.
 

Though often in my dreams my grandmother is still alive, I’m grateful in the mornings  to know Nana, in all the ways that matter,  has never really left–blessing enough–in my own now aging  eyes.

22 thoughts on “With the Edges of her Eyes

  1. What a wonderful tribute to your Nana. I woke up this morning thinking about age and death, and wasted lives. (Yes, I know, i’m in a great space right now). But this simple tribute reminds me that it is the lives we touch along the way that matter, and the memories we leave behind.

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  2. Gorgeous poem.
    Here’s another connection we share. My Gramma was my salvation as a kid, too. She lived in a tiny house on our farm, across the apple orchard from the main house. She also broke her hip in a car accident when I was 4 and would get up from the floor butt first. “Just like a cow,” she would say. She had hammer toes and was embarrassed by her feet. But sometimes, she’d let me look and touch her toes–some broken and reset, some amputated. They seemed like baby birds to me.

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  3. I lost one grandfather before I was even born, and another at 7. Then there’s my grandmother, who is still alive and kicking and well into her 90s. This is a great tribute to yours, and I love the poem. “Oblique and at odd angles” especially.

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  4. My grandmother was pretty amazing too. At 84 she wanted to go ‘home’ (England) to visit her brothers “before they dropped dead”. No one, including my mother (her daughter) would escort her because they were afraid she’d die on them over there. She called me, and I jumped at the chance. We spent 5 magical weeks in England when I was 25. She fell two years later, broker her hip, made it through the surgery, but an embolism took her that same night. In a panic earlier in the evening I had gone to see her, and we had one of our usual, long, rambling, hilarious conversations.

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    • Thanks for sharing your story, Cheryl! Isn’t it strange how a broken hip is so often the beginning of the end? It seems that if we can do open heart surgery, we should be able to mend a broken hip without hastening the end. How wonderful that you had that fabulous visit before she died and that you got that time with her in England!

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  5. This is a beautiful tribute to your Nana, Kathy, and I especially love the poem! I definitely see her in you…

    I was also in my last year of high school when my maternal grandmother died (1979). She too was named “Martha”, but used her middle name “Alinette.”

    Hugs,
    Wendy

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