My grandmother sat in autumn
Shelling pecans at the kitchen table.
At mid afternoon
The children were at play in the yard
Parents, at work.
She made herself useful
Preparing a sack of pecans
That would go to candies and pies
Destined for holiday enjoyment.
Her fingers remained nimble
Though hands were darkened
By age spots;
Skin wrinkled by
Time and duty.
She thinks back to younger days
(My childhood heart knew nothing of her sorrow).
So many years a widow,
She wonders what might have been
If that fiery Irishman, ten years her senior,
Had only had a stronger heart.
She hurts for her son –
The favored one –
Whose life spiraled into alcohol and bitterness.
“How did you keep yourself whole
And loving?” I asked
In this autumn-tinted memory,
“So that all I ever saw
Was gladness and light?”
“I had to welcome what life brought,”
Her thin fingers grasped the nutcracker
To loose another autumn kernel,
“I had to be here to shell pecans.”