In Family, Love on July 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm

And when he died they lit fireworks in the sky.

And when he lived he had a pocketful of quarters.  The old ones, with eagles.  They were made just for the arcade games at the front of the delicatessen.  Just for the handful of bubble gum on the counter.  And we never had to haggle too long before he dropped those quarters in our palms.

He had a closetful of instruments.  The old ones, with broken mouthpieces, the 1920s jazz still dripping from the keys.

His closets were full of coloring books the size of our whole bodies, which were little ones, then.  They rested next to the box with the hundred crayons, because Nana wanted her children to have all the colors.

Oh he knew just how to get us on the lips.  Before we could stop him, bending to his cheek for a kiss.  What a way to swing his head around and plant one!  He never missed.  Better than any baseball player, any gymnast.  Better than any child craning to see an airplane in the sky – and it is hard to swing your head for a better purpose than this – our papa did.

His tastes were mushroom barley soup and cheesecake.  Nacho cheese and fish.  Water was never sweeter than from the clear plastic glasses we were finally old enough to reach in his cupboard.  When we were old enough, he would ask us to bring him one, too.

His backyard was for play.  The good kind.  In hazy heat, through swarms of flies.  The air was magic then, but we didn’t know.  Our legs ran through it, all of us, babies.

Then the morning came and it was time to go.  So Mom drove and we walked into the room and he was there.  And he wasn’t.  His breath a series of tubes, pumping up and down.  We kissed him.  We left.

At night the little ones ran through fields like their legs were wont.  They climbed gates and the air was cool.  And the cars came back.  And we collapsed in each others’ arms.

The children watched.  What they did not understand, part of them understood, as part of all of us understands, every day.  Every time we are kind to each other.  Every time we are not. Every time we hold the new babies and tell them stories, silently, with our eyes.   Every time we lay our hands together, over soft earth.

Every time we love, we bear the history of Harold Altman.

The day I became a woman, he promised me something, and it is for all of us, for Vicki, Bob, Jessica, Hunter, Aurelia, Daniel, Sarah, Marc, Arlene, Elizabeth, Dana, Ava, Jessie, Michael, Scott, Barbara, Abigail, Cole, Hannah, Martin, Suzanne, Ashton, Heath, and Hayden and all the rest.  From Papa, gone today ten years, from Papa and for him, too.

 You will always be loved. 

  1. Ended up here through a friend of a friend of a friend who mistakenly thought I was a different ‘Jesse’…non-dreamers call that ‘coincidence’…but I digress… Obviously couldn’t resist clicking on a whole category entitled ‘love’ lol. This is amazing. I seriously want to commission you to write my funeral service. Keep rocking on.

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