They say my father’s father had a harsh temper.
That once, after being kicked while milking,
he killed a dairy cow with a pitchfork.
They tell me he always regretted
staying with the farm and not fighting in WWII
and that he felt conflicted and bitter
when both his sons joined the army.
They tell me he gardened so often
and was so thin, he could tip forward
stretch his elbows to the ground
without bending his knees.
They tell me that as a teenager,
he pulled out the largest single piece of coal
any of the miners had ever attempted
just to prove how strong he was.
This is what I know.
That we spent two weeks every summer
at their house when I was young.
His skin was pale and his pants
hung from suspenders, the knees always sagging.
That he slept in a recliner during Wheel of Fortune
and ever so often he would agree
to take me fishing for bluegill on the lake
or play one game of checkers.
That when they celebrated seventy years of marriage,
I was fourteen and the family gathered for a picnic.
That once he went into a nursing home,
the veins shone blue through his gnarled hands,
his eyes were glassy,
his shirt yellowed.
And I know when he died at ninety-one,
they said it was good he went first
because my grandmother was always the strong one.
Christine Grimes’ poetry has been published in The Black River Review and in the anthology Joys of the Table. She has also had fiction published at journals such as Cutthroat, 2 Bridges Review, and Passages North, and work which has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Grimes’ debut poetry collection will be published by Jane’s Boy Press in early 2016. Find out more at www.christiegrimes.com.