"... aunts and uncles, those who used to say, look how he's
shooting up, and the trinket aunts who always had a
little something in their pocketbooks, cinnamon bark or a penny
or nickel ..."
— A.R. Ammons, "Easter Morning"
There were no relatives in my boyhood — we lived too far away.
When my mother's parents and siblings died of the Spanish flu,
her uncles and aunts refused to take her in. She was an orphanage
girl who scrambled with the other children for the pennies and
nickels thrown on the ground by well-meaning visitors on Easter
mornings. She sang to us every day when I was a child; made us
treats in her kitchen. "You look hungry," she'd say looking at an
empty plate. "Have some more."
And there was my introverted father who became father to his
siblings at sixteen when his mother died and when his own father
was consumed by illness and despair. He had no way with words,
instead providing for us with a steady job and hand-building a
small mountain cabin that we kids so loved.
his grave stone
surrounded by tall pines
and still the silence
I visit mom in her new institution. It's filled with stooped,
silver-haired seniors who are seldom visited. "They treat her
like a doll," my sister says. "Look how they've done up her
hair." At our Easter dinner I can sense her wanting to pass me
something from her plate, some bits of cinnamon bark.
a gray halo
and now the silence