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Grandpa Larry’s Random Reminiscence: No One is Happy Here.

Hey, happy hashtag hallowers. Sometimes it is difficult to get into all the happy holiday cheer of late December,, but when gladness and joy don’t come to you, there is always opportunity for a sad poem. Enjoy, Grandpa Larry.

No one is happy here.
Over in the corner
the four year old
kicks a plastic car
hard against the wood
standing in reserve
for the fire.
Above canned laughter
and the inane conversations
of an unattended television
I trace the source
of his aggression
to his father
and two uncles
verbally abusing one another
over beer in the kitchen.
His mother is at work; his
grandmother moves quickly
and obsequiously between
the stove and refrigerator
and sink, providing snacks
for the men, cleaning
their dishes, preparing
a meal for herself,
seldom speaking,
never disagreeing for fear
of a flare of temper;
she has a deep fear
of change or sudden
tragedy, of any disruption
in the precipitous routine.
The kid misses the car
and kicks a log
and cries out.

Grandma hurries to him
in short steps,
dish towel flailing,
and scolds him for noise
hardly heard over
the television and the
grunting and laughing
and table slapping,
chair scraping games.
I sit in the center of it all,
a lamp, ready to illuminate.
In an attempt to
turn me on one of the
younger men passes
with some jocular remark,
but his glassy eyes
only remain on me for a
second, and when I show no
sign of response, he quickly
returns to his noisy banter
with the others. I close
my eyes and say a silent
prayer, wishing I were
as deaf as my years might
dictate, then remember
the adage, “be careful
what you wish for,”
and worry that malcontent
could carry me further
from the place of peace I crave,
into confusion and disarray,
into grandmother’s terror, a hell
of chaos and miscommunication,
the proverbial city of Babel.
Words are my only refuge,
creating order from the scrabble.
I grab thoughts from the air
and carefully arrange them
on the page. I
capture the confusion
and spread it meaningfully
before me. But occasionally,
when the dogs start barking
or the kid turns up his volume,
or the men begin to punch
and slap and pretend fight,
knocking over chairs,
frightening grandmother
who grabs at loose plates
and falling glasses; then
sometimes I cannot find
a word that defines them all.

I’ll almost have it,
so close that I’ll have written
the first letter or two
and then the noise grabs
the thought and throws it
playfully across the room.
If I were grandmother, I
would chase it from wall to wall
in tortured frustration, cringing
at the demon laughter, but
I am not her. I stare
at the letters, confident
thought will ricochet,
and even if it escapes
through some portal carelessly
ajar, the letters are still
there before me and
there are other choices,
other words that will do
just as well, new thoughts
that will take me
on concurrent pathways.
Outside a bonfire smolders
and my pen stills. My caring
child, back from work,
will remove it
from my hand and fold
my notebook closed
and lead me staring, unseeing,
to my bed where I will
discover the words
in the early morning
before anyone else is awake.
I will take the thoughts
and turn them over and over
preciously, polishing them
in the stillness
of God’s gracious dawn.

– Larry Berger. Hashtag #121. January 2020.

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