Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Holiday Hosanna

image from our family album.

Holiday Hosanna 

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned
in life--it goes on.”--Robert Frost.

As a kid, I often wondered
                          why the holidays       seemed
                                                            so bitter
                           to my grandparents--

but now with grandchild #7 in the oven,
                           clarity regarding such confliction
                                     descends like acid rain that peels
                            epidermal layers, revealing truths that come
                     with candy cane daggers & cranberry barbs,
                     with tattered bibles & sugary shrouds,
                     with faded photographs & garlic breath,
                     with dripping tinsel & torn wrapping paper,
                     wearing popcorn necklaces & gumball gems.

It has everything to do with the moaning string
                            of loved ones,
                            of tolerated ones
                            of forgotten & disliked ones; yes,
                                               ALL passed on, BUT
                        their faces, spirits, smiles, grimaces, hearts
                   & idiosyncrasies emerge around
          our family table, as those of us
still breathing gather in celebration & kinship.

As grandparents we sit now
at the head of the table,              venerated, respected & loved,
          happily assuming the inherited roles
of patriarch & matriarch               wearing a laurel of lilies,
                                                     holding a dove’s feather in one hand
                                       & a fancy silver fork in the other.

Those lost to us find their way home during the festivities--my still young
mother, dead at 39 in ’68, my three boorish stepfathers, a cruel trinity,
--perhaps even my biological father, whom I never met or knew, my lovely
grandparents, on my mother’s side, my wife’s parents, & too many friends,
acquaintances, bad bosses, drunken cronies, dearest comrades, cousins,
uncles, aunts, nieces & nephews--a swarm of specters on queue, increasing
in numbers on line with each year.

My dear mother-in-law was last to pass, at 90, last July. We always
flew to Texas each year to celebrate Christmas with her, more than
two decades of sweet tradition. Her empty chair, empty plate & absent
cheer will be sorely missed. My wife is already weeping when she 
thinks I don’t notice, the heartaches from Lucille’s passing still being
fresh wounds all around.

Hurrah, holidays
are upon us, as the dead
sit there behind us. 

Glenn Buttkus


Mary said...

I enjoyed reading of your family celebrations, Glenn. And, yes, in one's memory there are always the loved ones, the tolerated ones, and the disliked ones. Some have passed on..but at the holidays it seems they all revisit us once more in the family stories we share, often the same ones each year, Your ending was touching, Glenn......the dead indeed do sit there behind us!

brudberg said...

Oh yes.. the end became especially touching, with your mother in law still sitting there.. to still be there with all those grandchildren though has to be perfect. I also enjoyed that you didn't forget those we prefer to forget, also the bullies and the drunkards deserve to be remembered (at least we can enjoy their absence)

Marina Sofia said...

Oh, how I love the following lines:
the moaning string
of loved ones,
of tolerated ones
of forgotten & disliked ones; yes,
ALL passed on...
Sometimes it's really hard when you recognise certain family traits which you don't much like in your own children... but your concluding verse is so poignant - we build our lives and loves on the bones of our ancestors.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

This will be a difficult Christmas for your wife, for certain. I love that the specters come to share the holidays, and that your memories are so rich and wonderful.

Toni Spencer said...

Just wonderful. Indeed, they do sit behind us, or peer over our shoulders when cooking one of their specialties. The ones we truly loved and who loved us along with the mean and petty ones, the lazy ones, the crass. Their grey shades color our memories and their presence is felt. The stories we tell, the things passed onto children, the mementoes. I may not miss some of them but I do miss their meanness - like the sadistic uncle who tickled the nieces and nephews until pants were wet, tears were shed, begging to stopstopstop while he laughed. I remember biting him one time and how he jerked me up and my father told him, hope you learned your lesson and if you touch her again, I'll drop you where you stand. I do not miss him. but he still shows up with the others. We had little money but we had each other and that is what I miss. And how sad about your mother-in-law and how your wife weeps. I can relate to her. Excellent haiku at the end that ties the free verse and prose portions of the haibun. The family picture is truly priceless.

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Beautifully written.. indeed the holidays are such an emotional time of the year.

Loredana Donovan said...

What a big and beautiful family. You are blessed to have such close and loving relationships. Wonderful memories recounted here.

Truedessa said...

The holidays are a time to enjoy the family that is around and to remember those that have gone to the other side. It can be emotional. I wish your wife peace as this will surely be a difficult time as the memories flood. The picture of your extended family is lovely.

Victoria said...

Oh, yes--the bittersweet memories intrude, too. I loved the part where you describe the candy cane daggers etc. (Blogger won't let me go back to pinpoint it) but that edge of humor adds so much.

Grace said...

Those family memories will stay with us Glenn ~ Its good to remember the good times when some of our loved ones have died already ~ Hopefully the new generation will carry good and happy memories as well ~

Gabriella said...

"Those lost to us find their way home during the festivities." They most certainly do and give each holiday a certain flavor that is a little more bitter sweet than the one before. This is something I did not feel as a child but most certainly do now.

kaykuala said...

Those loved ones who had passed on are always in mind. There may not be occasions. But when they do as Christmas usually does the emotions get more intense. Our feelings and reactions are seen by the youngsters and that is important as values are imparted to them. Rightly said Glenn!


Bodhirose said...

It's hard not to think of all those loved ones (and not so loved ones) that have gone on before us. You laid out family life during the holidays pretty well there. I hope your Christmas without your beloved Lucille won't be too difficult a time for you and your family.

Victoria said...

Your story is evocative of so much bitter and sweet it brought tears. The roles of matriarch and patriarch are sweet roles, and blessings on all your grandchildren including little number seven in the oven.

KB said...

Glenn,You use this style well a mixture of poem, proem and prose narrative that works well for you. Smiles...>KB

Pleasant Street said...

Ah Glenn, you said bittersweet and you painted it just so, bitter and sweet. I understand this. I have many trailed behind me as well. Thank you for sharing such intimate memories and I feel for you and your wife's grief. It is very new and she lived a great long life.

Kate Mia said...

Well.. first of all.. Glenn..
faces mean everything
to me.. yes.. words
are great.. but
faces are king
and queen to me..
and the worst thing
about the poetry world
to me.. is seeing avatars
without ever the eyes of
souls of faces that say it
all to me.. and this is what
family is really about.. a variety
of faces that continue to change..
where we come to understand..
tolerate.. and appreciate
the differences among
each other and
truly acceptance
and unconditional
Love becomes a reality..
the Internet.. a cold place
overall.. now..
still.. where words
replace faces.. where Love
tries at times to come alive..
and truly nice folks like Brian
Miller go away as it hurts too
much to stay..
without faces.. as is the case
where i lose effective use
of hearing and sight
and literally
could not
what the expression
of anything on my face
was.. happily amazed
when my eyesight comes
back.. without pain..
that there was still
a human living
in all that
text online..
it is seriously
an epidemic..
a illness of heaRt..
a wave.. a Tsunami
of Zombie Apocalypse
that is now upon the
world.. and pArt of why i escape
this place online.. at all costs..
to get back in flesh and blood.. Dance..
so thanks the most.. for the family
picture.. those warm feelings of
human so strong theRe
and ha!.. this time
i spot you immediately..
unlike the Navy picture
out of two.. and
you look a little
like Robert De
Niro here..
and that reminds
me of his newest movie
about old guys rule..
when elders are no
longer respected
a social species
of humans
for misery
and suffering
at least.. as
clean up crews
peel up the remains
from Japanese Apartments..
sure.. at what cost.. for
eyes of
to replace
children to
respect the
grand fathers
and mothers of the future..
as always.. nature rules are best
and will balance it all out whatever
cost of misery
and suffering now..
happily or sadly
enough in balance now
in dark and light of truer reality now..
Bowling Alley life was the real life for me..
almost two decades of working there..
even if i never learned to Bowl.. the
people then
are the
of Nature
for me Indoors
in a cave of Love
and faces that live Fresh and new
always changing and bRinGinG
emoTioNs to Life Living Love..
so much
more.. dark
and light as now..
and that is what i miss
perhaps the most..
more than
Bowling alone
Bowling ALLONE..:)