Last words & epigraphs
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This work first appeared in Gargoyle, issue #8. Please respect the fact that this material is copyrighted. It is made available here without charge for personal use only. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose without the express consent of the author or artist.
Memory Turning into Itself
George Myers Jr.
Here is the familiar home of the holiday visits and the gathering of the families: small children running in and out of the closets, tangling in great overcoats and scarves, slipshod sofas covered and reupholstered in pastels and dim plaids, Geographic and Philadelphia magazines piled up on the coffee and end tables. Dark, highly polished mahogany. Near the oval doorway there's always activity and, as a result, a draft. Silverware and dishes are clattering in the kitchen, barely audible above the many voices. A standing wall clock pipes its music in softly, A few ladies are whispering to each other by the piano, the piano covered with framed photographs.
Your grandfather dozes heavily in the enormous leather-armed chair. His hands are posed on either hand rest, and his head leans slightly then drops back anonymously on the headrest of the chair. The sleeper, infant-like with his mouth open, seems protected by the chair. Indeed, his grandchildren think he is the chair and ignore the soft swelling of his breath. Your grandfather dreams not of his grandchildren, whom he dotes on and enjoys so when awake, but of his own children. His daughter and his son occupy his unconsciousness, he wonders where are they headed, like all travelers, having left their homes and not having yet arrived. He twitches and his eyes open but only for a moment. They do not focus on the ceiling or the cobwebs floating free from where the walls meet.
There are eight chairs in the room, two are rockers and the others are wooden not like his green leather chair. On the walls are photographs and paintings of your cousins, sisters and great uncles, A family tree, done in watercolor with the appropriate names etched in on branches, hangs beside the house in the mountains.
You walk around the chairs and their occupants, voices fade in and out of the Bartok on public radio. You look back at your invulnerable grandfather, who is dreaming of your own father and mother, sagging contentedly in his green chair. A newspaper having fallen from his lap is propped upright on the floor. An overhead lamp glows in the rounded glass of his bifocals. He is unlike anyone you've ever known. Now the music begins again.
You consider your grandfather from his right side--his profile is that of a gentle man, though the chin is taut against his buttoned collar. In the white light his wrinkles are wiped out. The face of an infant fascinates you. Laughter comes from the dining room. It doesn't concern you.
You pull up a chair facing your grandfather and for want of conversation, pretend to browse the bookshelves. His legs are crossed and his hands are folded. While you gaze at your grandfather a strange pleasing inertia settles in. Your chair becomes a reservoir, and you rest. In a moment, you too doze off. You head drops back, and your lips slightly part.