My grandmother Helen has some difficult things to contend with. She broke her hip in January and now she can't do for herself the way she would like. Many of her contemporaries have passed away, including my grandfather. She feels like she doesn't have much to offer any more. We talked about that when I saw her last weekend. She said that all she has to offer anyone is a smile. That's quite a lot when it comes right down to it, but I pointed out two other things she had given me during our visit -- interesting stories and useful advice. People don't always realize what they are giving.
Knowing my grandmother has given me a number of things:
~ an ability to speak very loudly and clearly when the need arises. My grandmother's been deaf in one ear for as long as I can remember, and she has a hearing aid in the other.
~ a liking for Southern accents. I put my Southern accent on when I am talking to her (and then I am speaking Southern very loudly and clearly!).
~ affectionate memories of the pleasure in her voice when she answered the phone and realized it was me. "Hi, Sugar!" she always said. I can hear her "Hi, Sugar!" so clearly in my head! (I say this in past tense because talking on the phone is not that easy these days, due to her hearing.)
~ a tradition of putting love into your cooking, so you are giving the people who eat your food a deeper kind of nourishment.
~ an appreciation for all kinds of things people make with their hands, particularly of the quilted, knitted, crocheted, and embroidered variety.
~ a love for birds.
Linda Rodriguez generously allowed me to share this poem, which spotlights the power of a smile:
The Sun Grows In Your Smile
by Linda Rodriguez
When you smile, the air grows warm and soft,
the earth is watered with gentle mists,
seeds sprout and spread leaves above the dark, damp soil,
earthworms pierce the crust and frolic across the surface
to the delight of fat, happily hunting robins,
lilies of the valley unfurl beside purple, grape-scented irises,
fat pink and maroon peonies, and gay California poppies,
damask roses hurl their rich fragrance to the wind,
the crazy-with-sheer-joy song of the Northern mockingbird
echoes above other chirps and sweet winged notes,
gardeners join the worms in the warm, rich dirt,
children gallop across yards and grab handfuls of dandelions
to present to mothers who will set them in glasses of water
in kitchen windows or on dining room tables, weeds
glorious after the dark of winter with the color of the sun
that grows and warms and heals in your smile.
From Heart's Migration (Tia Chucha Press), 2010 Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence
Mary Lee is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up this week.