All smiles late yesterday afternoon, our twelve-year-old grandson told me that earlier in the day he had looked me up on the internet — I googled you were the words he used. I said, You did? That’s funny, I didn’t feel anything — at the same time realizing that from this point on I would begin to seem a little different in his eyes, as this portion of my life slowly unfolds before him. Of course, it won’t make much sense at first. But he is more than perceptive enough to understand that he has perhaps stumbled on a secret worth knowing, at least to the temporary limits of his boyish pondering and experience. His bright expression suggested the same. That I might exist beyond the realm of this house and of being an affectionate old joker in need of a shave, is probably something even I should reconsider. Then again, by the time he left in the evening, he seemed to have forgotten all about it. When he first brought it up, his eight-year-old brother asked how he could have looked me up. His answer: I know Grandpa’s name. What a strange thing.
January 9, 2020
Someday, a little grandchild will run and find me working in the dim light of a beautiful, cavernous barn. The barn might be a real one, beside a house in the country down a narrow road, or it might be in a little room up a creaky flight of stairs and made entirely from imagination, memory, and dreams. Either way, the child will know it is a barn, even if he or she has never seen one — even, in fact, if I have imagined the child, as I have now, with clear eyes and perfect limbs, and a voice like a shepherd’s song.
There will be sweet-smelling hay in the barn,
an old lantern, table, and door, outlandish plans
for an ark, worn leather, maps, and dust.
“Grandpa? It’s time for supper.”
“Oh, really? And whom do we have here?”
“Me? Let me see, now. . . . No, I don’t know anyone by that name.”
“Grandpa. . . .”
“But your voice is familiar. Are you a lion?”
“Oh — I know. You’re a window-washer, and you’ve come to wash my windows.”
“Grandpa, you don’t have any windows.”
“But I do. Look up here. See where the shingles are missing?”
“That’s your head.”
“Well, aren’t you going to wash it?”
“No. It’s too dusty. Tell Grandma to wash it.”
“I can’t. Grandma is busy sewing carrots.”
“She is not. You can’t sew carrots. They’re too hard.”
“She’s sewing potatoes, then.”
“No . . . cranberries.”
Dear Grandma. I can see her now, holding the finest silk, spun from her oldest, most cherished dreams. The family has come to visit. Happily, she weaves a cloud for every bed.
Songs and Letters, December 5, 2006