Relative Redhead

Poem: Carrol & Dolores

This poem was written in January 2012 in honor of my Grandpa “Pete.” My grandpa died of Parkinson’s and Dementia; his wife Dolores, along with all of his children and grandchildren, took care of him for many months in his home as he slowly passed. I wrote this poem in reflection of a day I spent with him and the moments and words I will never forget he said to his bride.


Carrol & Dolores

You once had eight children
with the woman who feeds you.

She still feeds us for Thanksgiving.
I still hang my tweed jacket on the back
of the wooden chair where I once
ate her Maid-Rite sandwiches and
drank grapefruit soda with you.

This could be our last feast together.
I see your chair is gone
to make space to wheel you in
and pin your bib against the ledge.
Remember your old-fashioned bicycle
with the banana-boat seat?
It still hangs in the garage.

Your new bike cradles skeleton and skin,
and you don’t know how to ride it.

I can’t watch you eat anymore.
There’s a tremor in the apple sauce
and a pink pill bleeding on your tongue.
Swallow.
Grandma says, tapping your sunken cheek.
She holds a Sprite can capped with a straw
against the lips that once sweetened her.
Childproof.

You don’t know who eats with you at your table.
But I once watched you remember her.

You were slumped in the khaki recliner
when an old song came over the radio
and made you shake.
You must have been in another world,
wearing your war uniform and your dancing shoes.
Grandma heard you grumble,
something about dancing with beautiful women,
and you made her laugh again.

What’s that?
she asked, bending her ear toward you,
hoping you would go on, tell us more,
while we listened by your side.
I didn’t know what world you were in,
but Grandma knew the song.
She met you there, shared your world.
But there, in your living room,
I still remember what you said.

You’re my only one.

2 Comments

  1. Reply
    Jon
    June 28, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Very powerful. My wife was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in January. I have been her caretaker since the diagnosis. Watching someone disappear slowly, is the hardest journey I have experienced.

    1. Reply
      Alyssa Britson
      June 28, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      Jon, it breaks my heart to hear this about your wife. I am so sorry; I know what it’s like to watch my grandfather fade in front of my eyes, but I can’t imagine if it were my one true love. No one should ever have to go through such darkness in life, but I will send my prayers and support as you go. I wish there was more I could do or say, and I’m sure you feel the same.

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