Them There Eyes

They sent you to live with a strange family for half a year,
rich enough to care for a cross-eyed girl, but not as fun

as your real parents or the brother you loved and terrorized;
the story is cinematic but the part I can never quite shake is

the horror of knowing
that you were wide awake
during the four-hour procedure
that I can’t even mention,

that gave you double-vision for a year and never liberated
you from a lifetime of cats-eyes and Coke-bottles; I cringe

at your inner canthus stretched by an epoch of spectacles,
even as the mischief that glints through the glass makes me

remember when we read
Colette and Maupassant,
and drew up ambitious blueprints
for houses beyond our means.

Those eyes recognize me sometimes, but I confess
I prefer the times when I’m a total stranger, and worthy

of your unconditional smile, the one that seems to say:
“Get me outta here, kid, and we’ll go find some trouble!”

I can’t help but suspect
this was the very same look
you gave that boy from the wire mill,
that lasted seventy-five years.

I think of the forty-two addresses, across eight states,
you’ve occupied; your visions of buildings rising and falling

must put mine to shame.  I wonder if you’ve finally settled
into the one you loved best, or if it’s one that we designed.

I’m never there to see it
but I know you take them off,
and smile like I do, solaced
by the blur of the world.

 madeline.jpg

20 thoughts on “Them There Eyes

    1. Thanks, Mary — as I was writing it, I noticed that difference. Perhaps it’s the challenge of loving someone with dementia — you can’t quite let go of the past you shared, but you need to just a little.

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    1. Truly. I’m lucky that I spent so much time with this particular set of grandparents and got to grow up with their memories; they had a wild ride together! (And grandma’s pretty much still on it!)

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That was gorgeous. It’s both fierce, protective, and loving. I feel like I know your grandmother very well from this: buoyant, resilient, inquring, loving; an overall amazing woman. With an amazing grandaughter. 🙂

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  2. If I was your grandmother, I’d be so pleased with those words of yours, the way you’ve encapsulated the whole essence of her, so one cannot fail to love who she is, even without knowing her. Is she 96 in that picture? If so, she’s amazing as I know some 70-year-olds who don’t look as young as she looks!

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    1. Well if I managed to do that, that makes my day (“and my month and my year” as Grandma would say)! That picture was taken maybe 5-6 years ago, but she really hasn’t aged much since then; I think she was 90 before her hair even started to grey. Good genes that I hope I’ve inherited… 🙂

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    1. 🙂 I just heard him! (I must be careful saying that; one often expects to literally hear him here, but I’m not ever quite prepared for that…)

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