Bloodlines flow through the integrity of every seam of our lives, and we take with us through life the laughter, tears, and memories of family. We look at family and we see the past in their experience, we feel the truth of their present, and we learn the future by their mistakes. We are a revolving, spiraling mirror, and with persistence we can change for the better the flow of our bloodlines through example.
“I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other” Rainer Maria Rilke
Fabric place mats, the color of sage, are
miniature versions of the rectangular
kitchen table my grandmother and I sit at.
She sits in her armless chair; I across in the other,
silently, I am weathered, a doubtful teenager.
I stare at her aged manicured hands--her ten
fingers flawlessly fold and unfold the coffee-stained napkin.
Her Parliament hard pack and her monogrammed Zippo lighter,
a present from her deceased husband, is
stacked perfectly on top, waiting for her craving.
Rose seems folded with memories, as we sit remembering --
A childhood sledding accident leaving her with
Tic de Leroux; three brain surgeries to alleviate the
pain paralysis, leaving her blind in one eye, masked like the
Phantom of the Opera, a widow still living, and out-living her son.
Her perfectly folded napkin squared to the place mat, out the
window leaves fall from the oak tree like her falling empire,
the tree my father once climbed, and click the zippo lighter opens,
butane fluid fills the pink air, her thumb rolls the flint and a
flame burns the end of her white filter cigarette.
Half of her soul sits in the light, remembering silent movies
of her life, and again she folds and unfolds the paper napkin,
gray smoke curls from two long fingers, one eye looks at me.
I ask her again.
“Tell me the story of how you came here from Germany. Tell me how
Pop asked you to marry and the dances you went to every Saturday.
Her wrinkles began to disappear, as the two of us just sit,
and fold and unfold her memories. Her memories of leaving school
at 16 to work in her father’s office to make money during the depression.
Her heroism empowers the child left in me, her love folds over me, makes
me forget a bloodline of histories, not a choice of ancestry. I believe
I have something courageous that she sees in me, I memorize her folding.
My grandmother, a compass rose of women, replaces the memories
living in my head, all while her past is replacing her present dread.
She carefully opens her pack of Parliament and pulls out another cigarette,
a yellow flame perfectly arched disappears into that moment of her life.