I sing this song for my grandfather
My heart is filled with anger.
It’s as though every moment I am battered from another side, beaten with another blow.
My chest feels like a tire is crushing it, my ribs are squeezed in a titan grip.
“That’s why they call it heartbreak,” said my mom as we curled up side-by-side.
On the second day of winter, I woke to my father telling me that the first man I ever loved would die that day.
My Abuelo, grandfather, would not see Christmas.
Not see this terrible year conclude.
Not see his family, his grandchildren, his youngest daughter as we crowded round her to try and say our goodbyes from a telephone screen.
His eyes were closed, breath rasping.
Too many tubes, and beeping.
Nothing of home surrounding him.
A chaplain who had only met him the day before, a week ago yesterday.
My tio, emerging and retreating from shock.
The earth is crying now.
The last communication I had with him was via text as he lay in a hospital bed, alone.
I was telling him about a book I was reading, one that reminded me of him.
“How so?” he asked.
In one, a reference to the idiot light, I told him.
In the other, learning another way to fight.
Both talks he has had with me, in the brief lifetime I was privileged to share with him, just 27 of his 76 years.
This summer we talked about the virus, the one which ultimately stole his life.
We talked about choosing to love and he guided another way to fight.
He cautioned to “ignore the fools” and the nasty comments he called hollow.
He reminded me that ignorance harms more than the hard truths we all must swallow.
The idiot light, he used to say, comes on when you haven’t paid attention.
When your car’s engine has to scream.
As the winds cry between these hills and the sand rubs against my feet I only want to scream.
But scream to whom?
Is this world even paying attention to the flashing idiot lights across the dashboard?
“If you do accuse, do it with facts,” he wrote to me.
He said to always try to be more human.
He said, “you don’t have to like everyone hita, but you have to respect them.”
What else would he say, if he had one more day?
One more call, one more word, one more breath?
Perhaps he would beg this world, and each of you, to stop being selfish.
To stop stealing the breath of each of the 1,763,714 human beings who have been sacrificed.
To finally hear their cries in the wind.
Those whose deaths must now “stand as the shadow that reminds you of your failures.”
Can you hear those cries?
“It is our memory that must keep you on the good road. It does no good to pretend that we did not exist, and that you did not destroy us… You can no more remove our memory than you can hide the sun by putting your hand over your eyes.”
Yes, I am crying with them.
I read those words in ‘Neither Wolf nor Dog’ and I hear my abuelo speaking.
I hear him telling me not to cry, not to be angry, but to stand.
“I am sad that the Creator saw fit to destroy us to give you life,” those words continue. “Maybe it is we who are the true sons and daughters of God, who had to die on the cross of your fears and greed, so that you could be saved from yourselves.”
Janelle Patterson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.