"Since flesh can't stay, we keep the breath aloft. Since flesh can't stay, we pass the words along." --Erica Jong

Friday, October 06, 2006

My Grandpa Who

My Grandpa who (I never saw)

My grandpa who (I never saw)
shot mice behind the bedroom door
or under the pianoforte
blowing hell-holes in the floor
(O.F. Winchester's .44)
the bullets ricocheting
wall to wall. He swore
"Devil take!" and S.O.B!" and
"Plagues upon you!" (he
no catechist, he
no votary of Epicurius),

who, with his
stubborn Scottish jaw
and ranting woodman's fists
cut railroad ties
for Denver and the Rio Grande,
and caused my grandma
grief enough
to shoot herself (left breast,
she missed her heart
by barely half an inch).

And yet,
for all his fierceness
loved my mother
(a tiny red-haired dolly
he dandled on his knee).
I never saw my grandpa
but grandpa gave to me
enough insanity
to keep my devils free.

Everybody has a story. What was her story? What was his? I have no way of knowing, really, why she did this. My mother told me what but not why. Maybe she never knew, herself. Whatever it was that made my grandma, Grace Ellen, my Bocapickle, to want to die, I am sure it changed and shaped the rest of her life. Really, all their lives. Mama said her father was a very possessive and jealous man, given to irrational rages and fits of anger. Grandma wrote that he had "a very bad temper." He did shoot at mice inside the house. One of the ricocheting bullets landed between the pillows on the bed where the babies were sleeping. I wonder, did they cry? Were they too afraid to cry?

A blogger friend of mine, liz, writes, "We have all been on a journey that brings us to this place. Right now. We should be gentle with our own feelings and careful to think about why we are moved to judge another."



Paul Bunyan said...

He looks older than 24. I'm thinking 34.

slickdpdx said...

Great post. How'd we get from Bill to John?

pepektheassassin said...

William (he was called Ray) died on October 3, 1922, at the age of 46. He went fishing on a Sunday morning with her brother Tom on the San Jacquine River. That night Ray took sick and died at midnight on Tuesday of a ruptured stomach ulcer.

Back in Randsburg, she started keeping boarders. John Strecker was a miner there, and he was one of the boarders. They were married on October 9, 1923.

pepektheassassin said...

HIS brother Tom. (Otherwise known as Commodore Silas Wolfe, or Uncle Tom.)

paul, I guess life in the woods is hard....

Pixletwin said...

What did he do that made her wanna shoot herself?

pepektheassassin said...

God knows, and He's not telling. There were many things unspoken.

Anonymous said...

I came here looking for Poetry Thursday, but am so glad I found this beautiful page. I love the My Grandpa Who poem.

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