Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Letter to Alpha, Great Grandmother

Journal Excerpt


It's difficult to assess the volume of jazz when listening to the phono alone.

I'm always thinking of loved ones, and I love so many. I recently had a hierarchical list of friends in the back of my pocket journal, which I amended over time till it was just composed of family. But everyone, blood related or not, was family -- and the list void.

I often think of family out of time. I write to my 18-year-old older brother, though he lives and is now 31. I write to my 10-year-old baby brother, though he's 20. Even to myself at 4, 8, 24, 39, 87. Past, future, doesn't matter. Why? Why not? We are encompassed by a great cloud of witnesses, according to the author of Hebrews, and time is nothing to God.

Who should I write to now?

Paw-paw. First is first. Oh, then that'd be Mutti's mother, whose name I shamefully can't remember but want to call Alpha. I'll call her Great Grandma.

Great Grandma,

Were you there when your daughter was killed in the car accident on her way to church on that dark Missouri farm road? I wouldn't have been. If God himself couldn't watch his son die, how can we? Yet we do.

You died after having lived for more than 100 years. For over a century you hung around here. And my only vivid memory of you is in Mutti's kitchen. You both had such strong hands, she in her 50's, you pushing a century. I joke to Nic that I've moved to New York and lost my stone mason's hands. I don't know if I ever had them. Leslie says they're artist's hands -- she's nice.

You're now over 120 in Earth years and I'm talking across the plane of existence about my hands!

When I wrestled competitively, my Dad, Paul (did you ever see him wrestle?), told me to strengthen my grip. For if you can hold him, you can control him. Maybe that's why they're weak. I don't care to control anyone.

Okay, enough of me for a bit. What's it like where you are? Is it all nice? The Bible speaks of mansions and gold streets. Buddha of Nirvana. Rilke of beauty. It doesn't matter to me. There's enough hell and heaven on Earth for me to be content in something a pinch more placid. Here I am talking again. If I knew how to tune my ears to your frequency I would listen. The truth the dead know . . . . Don't think I could bare it, honestly. So let's scrap all that and say I'm speaking to the earth and what's left of you in it. That still works for me. Dirt is as noble as anything else.

Your daughter, my grandmother, was, is, marvelous. She once took us boys, me, Adam, and Nic, for a hike through our newly purchased 60 acres. It was untamed to say the least. The paths up the bluff were fine, and we three were rambling behind her about nonsense of pre-pubescence till we reached the top. Then we were all quiet as she navigated the thorns and thistles ahead of us. It was a typical Oklahoma summer, hot. We had short sleeves and shorts, and Mutti, as always, was in flannel and jeans. How did she never burn up?! Mom once laughed when I referred to her as cold blooded, meaning cold natured. So there we were in the Amazon of Oklahoma, trying not to whine because she never paid that no mind, when finally, after years, we reached the fence, the end of our property. Dad was brush-hogging the neighbor's pasture for a better view of our land from the lake road. Was he paying the mortgage? He almost laughed out loud upon seeing our bloody limbs and red faces breaching the brush and walking, calmly, we were boys wanting to be men after all, out to his parking the tractor. Mutti was in heaven. She was delighted to be outside with son and grandsons. That was it. Outside with family was all she ever needed to be in heaven. I hope you two are picnicking now without the flies buzzing 'round your potato salad.

It's 1 a.m. in Brooklyn and I must act like I can sleep. I love you. Say hi to Mutti for me.

Kyle

8 comments:

  1. Wow, Kyle. This reminds me a little of Madeline L'Engle's journalistic writing. Quite beautiful. You make us care about people we don't know. You take us into your world, into your heart, and let us share. That's amazing. Thank you.

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  2. Thanks, Gwen. It's obviously very personal, and I considered not posting till thinking: What the hell!

    Thank _you_.

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  3. Whoops. I needed to change a word and now I look like a crazy with two comments. Winning!

    Things I love about this post:

    1. That you write to your family out of time. That you even think out of time. Linear living is so overrated!

    2. Random parts that shine: Alpha/stone mason's hands/speaking to soul and earth and the nobility of each. And Leslie's right--absolutely artist's hands. (ha!)

    3. "You're now over 120 in Earth years and I'm talking across the plane of existence about my hands!" - This line made me laugh. So Vonnegutesque!

    4. I love your Oklahoma stories. You make me feel the heat and the dust like it was just yesterday. You also make me love elements that tortured my youth.

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  4. Thank you very kindly, Rona, for taking the time to write your lengthy comment (twice! I deleted the other for aesthetics :).

    I don't know what it means that my autobiographical writing is so potent... maybe that my novel, in the works, should be a roman a clef. Aren't they all?

    Thank you much.

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  5. "He almost laughed out loud upon seeing our bloody limbs and red faces breaching the brush and walking, calmly, we were boys wanting to be men after all, out to his parking the tractor." Love this line! And I agree with Rona, "You're now over 120 in Earth years and I'm talking across the plane of existence about my hands!" is an awesome line as well.

    As always, well done, babe. You've got the stuff!

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  6. and I just realized I said "line" twice which sounds lame. Point being, GREAT post ;)

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  7. Thanks, babe. Yeah, dads laughing and bloody children = hilarious.

    "They're bloody buddies." Ah, cheenchour wOOf!

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  8. Cheenchour Woooooooooooooooooooooof! ;)

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