I heard when alive and a little girl,
you liked to help neighborhood people
during The Great Depression,
and now, so down, on Lexapro meds,
I need someone to pour me stiff drinks,
teach me how to sing America the Beautiful.
I heard your father died of cancer, 1940,
a heavy smoker, he worked the Pine Coal Mine,
and mother had bad asthma, ulcerated legs,
she could not work much,
and Gabryella became “caretaker.”
How you could never attend school, instead,
tended five sisters and one brother's needs?
How at 13 years old, 1941, you worked
in a Scranton clothing factory,
made pants for US Army and Navy?
And now, so down..., my cap and gown
doesn't fit anymore,
and I need Gabryella to stitch buttons
upon my “Sunday Best” fatigue shirt.
I heard how Dr. Mazaleski taught
you how to administer insulin shots
to three suffering Minooka neighbors.
For non-certified First Aid training,
Doc Mazaleski used grapefruits,
and for practice, you plunged needles
deep inside the fruit,
until deemed competent, capable to inject.
And now, so down, blood sugar count
and food price spike,
grapefruit juice spills all over me,
and I need your steady hand in mine.
I heard a handsome “big-shot” from
Scranton's Chevrolet Company
once “came a courting.”
He offered to take you to a fine dinner,
you said, “No thanks, I had a big supper,”
and blew the fellow off.
And now, so down, gas gauge on “empty,”
I need to sit at your table, observe,
taste homemade food which nourished you
enough to resist fleeting charms like mine,
continue forever, rare selfless care.
Recommended for You
I heard how you were Chief Cook,
at annual family reunions.
Gave kids balloons, Crackerjacks,
alone, she staffed barbeque pit out back.
When you unexpectedly died, age 63,
July 4, 1980,
many people cried upon quilts you made,
three Catholic priests attended funeral.
And now, so down, but somehow grown up,
an acute awareness, and had I tried,
I too could have been a little like Gabryella,
and knowing NOW, too late (?),
there's nothing nobler in American life
than piercing one's multi colored and
highfalutin balloons, like practice needles
into Dr. Mazaleski's spacious bygone skies
and beautiful grapefruit.
Author's Note: Gabryella was my wife Carol's beloved aunt. Carol's mother Florence, 86, often tells stories about Gabryella's extraordinary simple life, and although never married, she became an honorary member of bygone days, the respected “Mothers Club.”