By Jeff Brown
I don’t have many memories of you and I
From when you were yourself –
They must be stored inside of a safe
Where I keep my important stuff
Because I know you were there with me,
Watching me grow up.
We went to the Bronx Zoo once, just you and I –
And the rest of the senior center –
But I think that is the only day that we’d ever spent together,
Just the two of us.
We got lost exploring and nearly missed the bus,
And I was running around in circles on ten year-old stubby legs,
Terrified we’d get left behind
While you strolled calmly, genuinely enjoying yourself.
You didn’t seem to care if we ever went home,
But fortunately, unfortunately for you, we found the parking lot
And weren’t even the last to arrive. But then,
My memory jumps to the day my family visited you
At the rehabilitation center, when I said hello to you
And you asked my dad who the pretty girl was. I couldn’t help
But laugh and be a strange combination of insulted and flattered;
Only because I was pretty. Years passed after that as I kept telling myself
That you didn’t know I existed anyway, so it didn’t matter
If I stopped visiting. That saying couldn’t be any more accurate:
You don’t know what you have until it’s too late,
And now my time is up.
Years drifted by without any visits,
Not because I didn’t care, but because I was afraid
That it would be the last time I saw you.
Then last summer, I asked Dad if I could tag along
To come say hello, which he was surprised by, yet pleased
To hear. You weren’t in the best of shape,
Unable to see or hear, or even uncurl your fingers,
But you laughed and laughed
And giggled in your own little world. When you spoke
It was in a labyrinth of rhymes and complex philosophical questions
As if you were both Socrates and Dr. Seuss. You didn’t recognize me,
But that was just fine because you were smiling. When you did finally look
In my direction, you asked me:
“What’s inside the sunset’s sunset?”
And it was after that I decided I wanted to come back with a notebook
To write down some of these phrases that you created. I’d eventually
Arrange them into a poem for you and call it –
I never made it back. Your laughter told me there was time left,
But it might’ve meant the opposite. It was November 26th,
Three days before your 81st birthday,
And you were smiling.