abundant brevity: an acknowledgement of Time


Last fall, I met a man in front of his home in Hamtramck. His told me that his name was Mr. Ben Jaros, that he was 97 years old and had lived each of those years in this very house (except for the ones when he was enlisted in World War II). I snapped a photo in front of the house with the intention of sending it to him one day and taking him out to coffee or breakfast or polish food and soaking up his stories. I knew he had many to share and our brief encounter gave me the impression that he just might like to tell them.

My intent was sincere but non-urgent and life is busy. I planned to get to it the next time I printed photos, but over a year passed and I never got around to it. Finally, I got the photo printed and a week or too after that I bought a frame. It sat in the passenger seat of my car for another while until I finally made the time to visit. I wanted to leave a large open window of time just in case the a spontaneous impromptu interview should await me. I knocked but no one was home, more time passed until I found a moment for another visit.

Tonight, I stopped by.

The lights were off and a neighbor was walking by with her fuzzy golden doodle. I asked her if her neighbor was home, pointing to the house that matched my photograph. She looked at me with confusion and said something polish until her husband stepped up. I repeated my question to him and he confirmed my fears: “That man, he died, about one month ago.”

He died.  Continue reading “abundant brevity: an acknowledgement of Time”

Road to Rhode Island

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Written in honor and memory of friend and colleague Steven Kolberg, whose battle with cancer and and dance with life ended today.

We drove to that strange state
packed tight in the car and buckled in
with greeting cards and a somber air.

There in the back yard,
I was surprised that he could see me,
and that he looked like himself
and that the lawn was lush green with life

It had the strange feel of a graduation party combined with a wake:
An uncle here, a high school friend there,
“Amy says hi” and “What’s your favorite beer these days?”

But there was a gurney on the yard with a thick body bag over it,
which turned out to be a kayak but oh my god, the thought!
And there was his comment about not being able to taste sugar or feel temperature or read anymore.
And there was a mountain of pill bottles just across the counter from the spread of submarine sandwiches and brownie platters and veggie dip.

We told stories,
and laughed
and paused awkwardly because what do you say?
This is his last party. Continue reading “Road to Rhode Island”

Bless Your Heart

Grandma died last week. After 2 ½ years of bedrest in a trailer she shared with Dad and his girlfriend, she passed away. Everyone remarked at how she had been of sound mind until the very end. “Just yesterday she called me a nigger!” said one of the home-care nurses with the strange fondness that accompanies all manner of recollections of the recently deceased, he is a white man who had the thankless job of bathing grandma, whose general bitterness was made more potent by painful bedsores. It wasn’t ever clear to the nurse if he was being blamed for causing the the sores by not cleaning enough or for aggravating by cleaning too much, but those details didn’t matter much.

The funeral was miserably sparse. We tried hard to remember that you can’t judge someone’s life based on their funeral when they die at such an old age. At 88, most of the people who knew grandma in her prime are either dead themselves or at least bedridden. Maybe if we had gotten some webcams set up at the local nursing home it would’ve been a better showing. But probably not. Continue reading “Bless Your Heart”