Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ode to the Last Sister

Ode to the Last Sister

The scene was quietly stately;
The halls were hushed; the talk quiet.
She sat by the casket, a sympathetic smile on her face.
Those paying their respects would stop for a minute,
beside the casket and look at the lovely lady in repose,
to pray i think;
then step aside, stoop and shake the sister’s hand,
the last sister I’ve taken to calling her,
condolences they would say in several different ways.
Occasionally, she would see someone dear;
her older husband, but still lithe at ninety-two,
would offer her his arm;
she would shuffle over, have her conversation,
return to her chair.

It is difficult to lose a younger sister,
almost as bad as it would be to lose a child.
With her younger sister in repose,
her older sister in Florida, not quite right
in recollection and failing slowly,
this middle sister donned her coat of family responsibility,
wearing it regally,
playing to the needs of the visitors,
worrying if all was going smoothly,
asking about others,
worrying over not remembering names.

It struck me she was queenly.
when the family gathered at her place
she was the center of it all.
As always, her man was circling, getting things done,
but she was the epicenter.
Her hair was white and pretty,
not plastic blue:
she never varied from the natural color;
her eyes still had the gleam of humor:
when one brow was arched,
everyone still scrambled to get out of the way
of whatever was to come next.

Another family member said it best as we struggled with what was going on:
“We are saying good-bye to a different age.”
And so it is.

And the world rolls on, caroming off of what makes sense
to find paths of illogic and darkness
when light and hope should be on the trail.
But the one last sister has her own world,
which she rules
by herself now.
As I think back to the scene,
I recall her moving toward me
(for i am her oldest son)
in a moment of weakness
at the “visitation” as they call it in the South.
As she neared, I could see she didn’t want
to be regal or responsible
for that infinitesimal moment;
I moved to her as a tear or two escaped.
As I held her against my chest,
I could tell the moment had passed,
kissed her on the forehead
let her return to her civil regality.
From my reflection, I knew she would be all right.

Sure ‘nuff, she rebounded, took up the gauntlet
doing what she had to do
with that fire and grit and pluck
and ooh, that gleam, that wonderful gleam in her eye.

That is the way in the middle of Tennessee,
or rather has been the way,
and will be the way,
as long as she can keep the fire stoked;
And there are others, daughters and other women kin
and other women in other families
who will keep the fire lit,
we are saying good-bye to a different age.

Bonita, California
March 18, 2007

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