To My Grandmother Who Is Always Near
In the kitchen, I stir the beans into the onions and garlic, sputtering and complaining, chatting at the bottom of the pan. I drop in 2 cloves, just like you had taught me. I’m cooking your favorite, rice and beans. The action triggers the muscle of my memory because I think I hear you call my name. “Jo? Is it almost done?” I hear you, and without thinking, I answer: “Not yet, Marraine.”
You’ve been gone now, for three years, but you’ve never really left. Your hats and sweaters still occupy the closet downstairs. I boxed and gave away most of your things, but I’ve kept my favorites: your silky faux-fur black hat, the one I gave you for Christmas almost 20 years ago; your thick cable sweater, the one we dressed you in on your 100th birthday. A gold pin with red and green jewels claiming, “The Greatest Grandma,” decorates the collar of your favorite tweed dress-suit. I pass that closet everyday, several times a day. Sometimes, I will stop to slip my arm into the sleeve of your sweater.
You’ve left behind bits and pieces of yourself in every corner of the house. Yesterday, I rolled out some dough with your wooden rolling pin. Every evening I rest my feet on your little red footstool in the family room. I use your thimble daily to sew lost buttons, to patch torn jeans, and to mend slipped hems. Without it, the needle pierces the soft, spongy pad of my fingertip, and the sharp and swift pang surprises me. Some mornings, when I stumble down the stairs and turn the corner, I expect to see you there. Like the sharp point of my sewing needle, your absence surprises me.
On those days when I need you most, I know that I can find you in your garden. In the corner, surrounded by succulents and blooming perennials, I kneel to admire your rose bush. I take your favorite gardening tool in my right hand and clip the dead rose buds to make room for new ones.
Joelle Hannah lives in CA with her husband and four children. She teaches English composition classes at Moorpark College and online at BYUI. She has been writing and performing poetry since 2005. Her poems have appeared in The Scribbler, The Night Goes On All Night, Bridges of Fate Anthology, Chaparral, Two Words For, Where I Live, and Mothers Always Write.