Now that people are becoming more aware of my poetic efforts, interests are being expressed regarding the background of my poetry - in addition, to my spiritual muse. In this installment, I share the background and poem "In Remembrance of Grandma".
I recognize that most of you reading this article will not know much about my maternal Grandmother, other than what you're able to glean from this page. However, there are universal lessons that need to be shared. This poem was originally written for her funeral.
For nearly forty years, I was blessed to have known my grandparents; blessed - because many people don't have the opportunity to know their family history personally from those who came before them. Within about one decade, mine were all gone - with my maternal grandmother being the last one to die. Of the four of them, I had spent the most time with her. My grandmother had moved to Portland, Maine; this came about as the result of two significant events in her life. First, her husband Al Massa died unexpectedly; second, her oldest daughter (and my mom) had gone through a divorce. So they decided to purchase a home jointly and move on with their lives. Also living with them was my aunt Tina, my mother's younger sister.
My grandmother was an intelligent woman; she was one of those people who completed the New York Times crossword puzzles - in ink and usually in under an hour. And she grew some of the most beautiful roses in her tiny backyard. It was wonderful to see the joy in her eyes when it came to her flowers. The problem was that she was heart-broken when Al passed away; for decades they would go dancing at night, just to hold one another more often. With him gone, she stopped living for herself. Less than a year from his retirement, her husband died on the picket line at work. Although I can only imagine her grief, it was difficult to see the affects of this tragedy slowly eat away at her soul. She rarely left her home, with the exception of going to Church, the grocery store or some of the neighbors' homes a few times during the month. She and Al were to go to Hawaii for a second honeymoon, but she could not bear to go there without him. In The Word, we are essentially reminded that "people without vision perish" (and yes, I know that there are variations of interpretation of this concept). Despite our ability to absorb pain, we must learn to move forward in life and not let the pain consume us.
For many years, she smoked cigarettes and was unwilling to give them up. She did so eventually; my mother moved out of their house, Tina got married; she and her husband lived with my grandma. Tina and husband Greg started their own family, raising three boys - thus giving her the incentive to quit. As most everyone knows, smoking increases one's risk of having cancer. My family were under the impression that she had managed to escape the misery of that disease. Less than two weeks from her death was when most of the family learned that she had contracted cancer and emphysema.
Although I understand and appreciate the need for privacy, it was selfish of my grandmother not to share the condition of her health. Her justification for not telling anyone, was that she had decided not to go through with the cancer treatment. By not telling us, she figured that no one would be given the opportunity to dissuade her from her decision. After all, it was her decision (and rightfully so). Before she died, Tina started quickly gathering information about cancer - to better learn about what to expect regarding the few remaining days of her mother's life. One cancer brochure shocked her; as a result of reading the material, she was now having to deal with guilt. This particular pamphlet laid out symptoms and patterns of human behavior of those suffering from this fatal disease - stuff that Tina had observed, but never realized the meaning of until it was too late. So in effect, my grandmother caused her family more pain by not sharing. In addition, not everyone who cared about her, had enough time to say good-bye (while she was alive).
Although I had time to compose this brief poem in her honor, I did not have enough time to process my grandmother's death fully (prior to the service). I was supposed to read the following poem and share a few words. To my surprise, I was choked up with immense grief, which kept me from delivering my eulogy; my wife kindly stepped in and presented the poem. One of my brothers was extremely upset for my inability to talk on behalf of my grandmother; so he spoke on my family's behalf. It's one of my few regrets in life; however, she was the only grandparent of mine that got to read my poetry manuscript. Less than two months before her death, she had taken time read my poetry and was pleasantly pleased with my efforts. During her appraisal of my work was the first time I learned that she wrote poetry - as of today, I've never gotten to read a line of poetry that she wrote. So it breaks my heart not to know what she composed, as well as not being able to share any more of my writing with her. And so here is my tribute for her...
In Remembrance of Grandma
A manicured garden
of colored, cultured roses
now goes untended.
For Marguerite has been freed
of all mortal constraint;
is a silver trowel
and dancing shoes,
as her spirit flies
to the Hawaiian shore
for pirouetting barefoot
on the seashell sand.
Goodbye Grandma Massa; I miss you already.
(18 June 2006)