My grandmother died in May
but nobody told me.
I found out because my cousin posted
A eulogy on Facebook.
I read it during my friend’s birthday party.
I didn’t mean to—
I wanted to see pictures of other people’s babies,
unsolicited gardening advice—
But that’s what I saw instead.
Afterwards, I was very quiet.
I walked outside to smoke a cigarette,
Then left in a hurry even though
it was just barely getting dark.
I was stoned and a little drunk,
and I thought I could feel her watching me,
knowing now that her eyes had become the sky,
and her hands the bird houses,
and her spine the line in the middle of the road.
She was terribly abusive, my grandmother.
When she died my mom said she was surprised
that my father was sad
after everything she had done to him.
Still, he talked to her once a week on the phone
until she lost the ability to speak.
We went on a family vacation in June,
nobody mentioned my grandmother
except my aunt who said
“You look just like her when she was young.”
I am crazy too
I am angry too
And I have hurt people, and they have hurt me.
My father, sometimes he was terribly abusive—
Spitting, screaming, holding me until
his hands went white at the knuckle.
I still call him on the phone, though infrequently.
When he dies I think I will lose the ability
to speak, and all the pain will rush out
like engine oil from a cracked gasket.
It will vaporize,
I won’t be able to hold its shape.
After my grandmother died I wrote her a eulogy
and shared it on Facebook.
I said I miss the way your hair smelled
and I forgive you for getting drunk and crying
at my 13th birthday party.
I sent two dozen roses to the funeral home in Louisiana
where she was to be cremated.
They were expensive—I felt nervous about buying them
but didn’t know what else to do.
Her wake was held over zoom.
I didn’t go, neither did my father, or my mother,
or my brothers.
It was too strange to imagine seeing a picture of her picture.
She wanted a big celebration,
with lots of family and crying babies.
It’s just as well, my father said.
That was months ago, but all the days
turn out exactly the same
and so it’s as if no time has passed.
Grief is unstuck in time.
It does not register the changes of the seasons.
It knocks on the door always with the same urgency.
You must open the door.
You must set the table.
You must pour two drinks
and picture a face that has not changed
and never will.
In October my work threw a Halloween party
For the people there.
A pretty woman from downstairs came to do tarot readings.
I was the last person in line,
I sat down in a black chair, in candlelight
and she asked me if I had any questions.
Earlier that week, a resident was strangled
by her boyfriend.
Afterwards, I touched the ligature marks on her neck
while my dog licked hot tears off her temple.
I said to the tarot reader,
“It has been a horrible week,
and a horrible year,
I want to know why.”
So she pulled three sets of cards,
and one of course was Death.
She said when something dies it doesn’t disappear,
it is recycled, it changes forms,
nothing is lost.
Then she asked me “do you have a grandmother?”
I said yes, but that she had died.
She smiled and said my grandmother was watching us,
and I knew this was technically true
seeing as her eyes are the sky,
and her hands are the bird houses,
and her spine is the line in the road.
She wants you to know that she received the flowers,
said the woman-turned-oracle,
but she is giving them back to you—
She wants you to have them.
My coworker was in the room with us.
Her face was pale, like she had just
seen a ghost.
I don’t believe in ghosts,
but I do believe my grandmother would have wanted me
to have the flowers,
And is a ghost any different than a longing
to be loved by someone who is gone?
Your grandmother loves you,
said the oracle.
She is proud of you, she is happy.
In my eulogy I wrote that
we must give ourselves the gifts
we could not give to the people who raised us,
and the people who raised them.
I am crazy,
I have hurt people,
but, goddamnit, I still deserve my roses.
The night after the party it rained
until early in the morning,
and there was a full moon making
a gauzy orb of light behind the clouds.
I heard a knock on my door,
And began to set the table.