Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 57

*this post kind of wanders

On Saturday we went to South Haven, Michigan with Grandma and Grandpa (Mike’s parents). We moseyed through the art fair, had some pizza and made a windy and chilly stop at the beach. Nothing spectacular. But all I could think about was what a blessing this is. A blessing for my children to have grandparents so close, and to have so many of them! We have Mike’s parents and both his sets of grandparents living within a forty minute drive from us.

On Sunday we paid a little visit to Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Livovich. They are quite elderly, G. Grandpa is in his decline. There is awkwardness there – to say the relationship is dysfunctional would be a kindness. And yet they love us so. They love the kids. G. Grandma is deaf, and it is difficult for the children to have long conversations with her, so she loves them in the way she knows how. By giving them anything they want. From the moment we walk in the door the children are given candy, gallons of Sunny Delight, ice cream and cookies. Mikey quickly learned the sign for ice cream, and by the time we realized what was going on he was on his fourth ice cream sandwich. I thought it was taking him a while to open the one – maybe it’s because every time I glanced at him he was opening a new one.

On Monday we all met up at Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Kuznicki’s house, along with some of Mike’s sisters and brother-in-law, his parents and other relatives. G. Grandpa has a cold, so he wasn’t up to playing monster the way he usually does, but he was up to popping out his false teeth and giving the stink eye to Del, which of course makes the Del cower in delicious fear.

Growing up in Mexico, my grandparents were far away from us. My dad’s parents were in Michigan, my mom’s in Missouri. We saw them as often as we were able, and they visited us as often as they were able. I have many happy memories of my grandparents, but I don’t have the every Sunday afternoon memories. I used to chafe at the idea of living in one place for more than 6 years. The idea of gathering at a grandparent’s house more than twice a year made me a little nuts. But now I have children and the relationships they are able to form are wonderful to watch.

I don’t know how long this will last. Time brings sickness, even death. Situations change, people move. We do not look forward to the day when we will lose our many beloved family members. So we hold on tightly to what we have now and relish the affection our babies have for their grandparents.

One of the evenings this weekend we watched “The Last Station”, a lovely film about the death of Leo Tolstoy. There is so much to be said about that movie but what affected me the most was the portrayal of their marriage. At the movie’s point in his life, Tolstoy has had all these crazy spiritual awakenings, is surrounded by acolytes and is thinking of changing his will to give everything he owns away. It is difficult to describe his wife. Because she is self-centered and overly dramatic. And yet she loves him with her entire being, just as he loves her. She has loved him for 48 years and now he is taking everything away from her. Not only her land and riches, her means of support once he dies, but himself. She cries, she screams, she pleads. She smashes dishes and attempts foolish dramatic things all in an effort to bring him back to herself. Being a bit dramatic myself – Mom stop shaking your head, I am! Just a little. Mike right now is nodding vigorously inside, because if he agrees too wholeheartedly that I am dramatic, well, it could be trouble – I could sympathize with the Countess. What would I do if my husband was doing the same things Tolstoy was doing? I would scream, I would cry, I would plead. I would do just about anything to bring back the man I love. But I hope in the end I would collect myself, as she did and usher him into a peaceful death. Oh, this movie!

I don’t know if it was good film making, the tender portrayal of the final love of a husband and wife. I don’t know if it’s because every bearded, strong-nosed man on his death bed reminds me of my dad, but this movie brought about an ugly cry. You know, the snot faced, sobbing, puffy eyed kind of cry. All we want in our final hours is our beloved. We want our beloved for comfort and for peace. We want to see their face, gazing back at us, telling us of their love. It doesn’t matter to us if our beloved was a thorn in our side for much of our life, it doesn’t matter if just moments ago they could only think of their pain, of their loss when we leave them.

We want our beloved.

Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness

John Donne

Since I am coming to that holy room
Where, with Thy choir of saints for evermore
I shall be made Thy music, as I come
I tune the instrument here at the door,
And what I must do then, think here before.

Whilst my physicians by their love are grown
Cosmographers, and I their map, who lie
Flat on this bed, that by them may be shown
That this is my southwest discovery,
Per fretum febris, by these straits to die,

I joy that in these straits I see my west;
For though their currents yield return to none,
What shall my west hurt me? As west and east
In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,
So death doth touch the resurrection.

Is the Pacific Sea my home? Or are
The eastern riches? Is Jerusalem?
Anyan, and Magellan, and Gibraltar,
All straits, and none but straits, are ways to them,
Whether where Japeth dwelt, or Cham, or Shem.

We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Christ’s Cross and Adam’s tree, stood in one place,
Look Lord, and find both Adams met in me;
As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.

So, in His purple wrapped receive me Lord,
By these His thorns give me His other crown;
And as to others’ souls I preached Thy word,
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own:
Therefore, that He may raise, the Lord throws down.

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