Poem: Grandma


My maternal grandmother died when my mom was 16, so I never got a chance to meet her. I had a relationship with my step-grandmother, but it was still a bit distant and formal. My paternal grandparents lived several states away so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together either.

Generally speaking I got along with my step-grandmother, but we weren’t super close. We would spend time together a few times a year, usually going out for lunch. In many ways she was the classic Southern woman, and she tried to teach me manners and social etiquette. Not that I was an animal, but I had a preference for eating burgers and fries that she wanted to change. The  biggest restaurant moment that stands out is her insisting I try chutney with my meal. (I must have branched out with a chicken sandwich.)

I do remember sharing this poem with the school guidance counselor. I was establishing a friendship with her, or at least trying to get to know her better. I’d stop by her office to talk every now and then about different things, not just school-related. And I started sharing my poetry with her. I definitely shared this one with her. She was totally convinced I was sharing a very personal poem, but it’s not personal at all.

I remember when my grandmother died that I didn’t know how to react. Hers was the first family death that I knew what was happening. My grandfather died when I was about five, and I didn’t really know what was going on.

But with my grandmother it was kind of a numb shock. I remember wearing a black dress to school because that was expected, that’s what you wear. Did I have to be sad and frown all day? We had a basketball game that afternoon. Should I refuse to play as a way of mourning or was it better that I get on the court?

I wonder if maybe subconsciously with this poem I was trying to show more emotion toward a family member’s passing than I felt. After all, you’re family. You should feel a deep sense of loss. This poem was written in the tenth grade, about a year after her death.

Writer’s note: This is one of those examples where I went a little heavy-handed on the descriptions. I was definitely learning how much to include and what was enough.

In the hospital bed
Grandma lay
As still as a rabbit
When it’s being hunted
And hears a noise
In the distance.
She barely does anything all day
The tubes and needles stuck in her body
Reminding me of a porcupine
Are too much for me to bare
She breathes abnormally
And it scares me
The machine has all these green arrows
But what are they pointing at?

Since my grandmother entered here
My eye hasn’t seen a dry day
Nothing seems to be going right
I don’t think I have a part to play

I don’t want her to die
I don’t want my life to end
I’ll miss our happy times
And all the fun we’ve had
I’ll miss the games we played
The stories that she told
I’ll miss her special laugh
And the way we bonded so
I’ll miss the hugs she gave
And the pinching of the cheek
But most of all I’ll miss
The empty space in my heart

I know she’s sick and hurting
I know she’s in bad shape
But I want her to get better
I’m pulling for her everyday
I’m asking for your help
I can’t do this alone

On February fourteenth 1989
Was not the day I celebrated Saint Valentine
All my soul was drained from me
My life seemed meaningless
On the day the clock stopped
And my best friend left


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