I got to spend most of yesterday with my cousin Tyson. He was in Oklahoma for ten days doing work at some of the oil wells. He sent me a text a few days before letting me know that he was here, and that Saturday was the only time he had some free time before flying home on Sunday. He got to Dot at 11:30 AM, and I think he left around 11:30 PM. It was a wonderful day.
We shared memories, reminisced, talked about plans and life and how spontaneous we used to be, ate at some local restaurants, and ended with an impromptu poetry reading. We read Rainer Maria Rilke, Wendell Berry, Ann Sexton, Carol Lynn Pearson, and a few of my own. I am now expecting him to be on the ball, ready with some of his poems when we make it to New Mexico to see him (and Janie!). I've always wanted to see the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, and he lives pretty close.
This visit was so good for my soul. I love my family. Perhaps it was because I didn't have any kind of sibling until I was 12, but my cousins were my siblings, all 36 of them. I really have 38 first cousins on my mom's side, but two passed away. Curtis died before I was born (I'm 33rd out of the 39, so I'm toward the end), and Danielle was younger than me, but she lived for less than 24 hours, and I was very young when she was born. One of my cousins, Robyn, passed away one year ago. Tyson and I talked about how that really hasn't sunk in all the way. So, I have 35 living cousins, and I miss being able to see them as often as I did growing up.
He shared a memory he had of me that made me laugh, and one that I have no recollection of. I was 9 or 10, and was in my grandparents' orchard sitting on the tractor. He said when he walked up to me, I was slumped over the steering wheel sobbing. He asked me what was wrong, and I looked up at him and said, "I'm never going to be sophisticated."
We spoke a lot about our grandpa, and I was glad because I'd been thinking about him a lot. The poems of my own that I shared were about him. I wrote them during a poetry workshop in college, and I'll share them here.
Cowboy boots, Levi jeans
cattle on the open range
harvest in the fall
Reeboks and sweat pants
watching three-wheeled bikes go by
from faded, grey chair
Age Equates a Certain Cruelty (on both the young and old)
Because Grandpa died last night in his sleep, I won't need
to sit with him on Thursday while Grammy attends the
reception. I don't know what I would have done when he
had to use the restroom - to go and get one of the Depends
from his bedroom and bring it to the bathroom. Sometimes
he needed help putting them on. Our eyes would have never met.
I wouldn't have allowed it. There is sorrow in not getting to
see him. It had been two weeks and he wasn't far away and
then the greatest void of all came between us. Maybe his
very last act saved both of us our dignity. It allowed my
most vivid image of us to remain: Our consistent meetings
with me lying on the floor in front of his chair while he
rubbed my feet.
My Grandpa's Heaven
Cowboy boots and
ranges, grassy green
and new-old white Ford trucks
Old Smokey and
and five acres of backyard
Apple trees and
giant blue skies
and steady flowing streams
Levi jeans and
a life with Betty
and a night at the dance hall
Friends, neighbors and
spending time together
and reminiscing between the generations of life
Gold Arches and
and coffee in the morning
Crisp air and
and a day spent working in the sunshine.
*Tyson said the only thing I forgot was Big Red chewing gum.