I visited a friend of mine this past Saturday, whom I had not seen in over 20 years. We were in high school and at college together. She lives about an hour and a half west and north of here. When I left my friend’s house on Saturday, I was feeling nostalgic. No surprises there. I took the Hwy 127 exit off of I40 and decided to go home by way of my childhood. I guess I covered 37 miles of Lincoln County, starting near Vale and ending at the McGuire dam. I stopped and took photographs along the way.
One of the places I stopped was the house near Vale where my Pappaw Punch lived. I am writing a poem about what I saw there, how it made me feel. As I think about him – about all my grandparents, really – it makes me even more embarrassed about the assumptions I find myself making about others. I, of all people, really should know better.
My mother’s father was a trenchant observer of people; he was wise, and he was gentle. I loved him and he loved me. I wish I were more like him. I wish I had bought him some Moravian cookies in Old Salem when I was in law school at Wake Forest, and taken them to him. As far as I can recall, that is the only thing he ever asked me to do for him, and I didn’t do it, but he didn’t hold that against me. He just loved me. When I graduated from law school, I was quite the brat (I guess law school has that effect on some people). I was actually disappointed that my mom had given me some diamond earrings for graduation, because what I really wanted was a bicycle (sorry, Mom. You did indeed raise me better than that). When I went to see Pappaw Punch that late spring, he gave me almost the exact amount of money it would take to buy the bike I had my eye on, and said, “Now, don’t do anything like buy a bicycle with this money.” I still have that bike, a Raleigh racer. It’s in awful shape, but I won’t let my husband get rid of it. Later that same year, Pappaw Punch passed away. That was too soon. Way too soon. I guess it always is.
Here is the beginning of the poem I am working on:
My grandfather’s house
was quite small. Since his death
it has been shrinking.
Barely taller than grass,
here, but gone, like cold breath
…like a boat, sinking.
I’m not even sure if this is the form the poem will take, but this is what is rattling around in my head. I will let you know how it turns out … and, as always, thanks for reading.