We stopped to get the baby out
Of the back of the car, where his
Seat faced backwards. His mother
Was coming from across the street,
From the now empty house of her grandmother
Who died this last weekend, suddenly,
And whose body she and her husband found.
The baby squealed with joy to see his
Father and then his mother, his vision
At first obscured by his limited ability
To turn within the safety seat as it
Was removed from the car.
The sun was setting over the house of
The lately departed; several days of going through
Stuff had barely put a dent in all that
Had to be sorted out or disposed of. Our grandson’s
Mother’s face lit up at the sight of her child,
Another child currently growing within her, but
Still with traces of sadness for the grandmother
She barely knew, although they were
Across-the-street neighbors. Death, ending another story
That hadn’t been completed on the part of
Many of the characters, violating all the rules
Of good drama — for in drama, we control the rules,
But in life, death controls the plot lines.
My son-in-law put his hand on my shoulder, drawing
My attention — a great and terrible sadness upon him:
For the brain injury his service to our country caused –
For the pay he was about to lose with another child on the way –
For the anger counseling he was undergoing to try to save this,
The marriage of his heart –
For the uncertainty of a dark-skinned man,
Married into a light-skinned family,
In the heart of the southern United States,
Who feels his physical and mental powers fading.
Oh, son, I told him:
You’re a good man,
A capable man,
An amazingly talented and kind-hearted man,
I know I cannot know what this is like for you.
But you are family, and
Better than family, you —
Are one of a kind.
Can conquer anything.
As my wife and stepdaughter chatted with
My wife’s ex and his family
Who came out of the house across the street,
My son-in-law’s eyes grew shiny,
And he said:
I’m nothing special.
I couldn’t help but smile, and said
You are as special as they come.
And if you saw the way
That 20 month old child looked at his dad
I wasn’t the only one
Who knows it.
Then he said,
And you — why are you so sad?
I looked at him, and said
I disappoint a lot of people.
I’ve been given much, and
There seem to always be people
Who feel I’ve squandered it.
Are they right?
Yes, I said,
Taking the baby from his sore arm,
And spinning the boy around
High in the air
As he smiled and laughed