Elegy for an Uncle Grandfather

The first time we met

my mother’s father,

we were standing in our driveway

greeting them as they arrived

to our 4th of July party.

 

He’d come to visit

from Florida, along with

his second wife.

 

The adults spoke

about travel and directions,

a mediocre steak dinner in Tennessee,

other smalltalk you stumble at

when your father hasn’t visited

in years,

and after a lull

my little brother

proudly announced his first hello,

 

“Hi, Uncle Russell.”

 

“Well I’m not your uncle, Kenny -”

he corrected the child

with a wounded scorn,

“I’m your Gran-Paw!”

 

I was 9 years old,

and I wondered what kind of

ridiculous person

would move away

then show up and

scold strangers

for not knowing

who he is.

 

He died last night

after breaking his

hip and pelvis

in Florida

a few days ago.

 

Today somebody told me

with generic discomfort,

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”

 

For something we all do,

we’re really bad

at death.

 

I didn’t really know what to say and

laughed a little.

 

Made me think of

apologizing to an archeologist

standing over the bones

of an extinct bird

no human has

ever seen.
– what loss?

 

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