Wednesday, April 6, 2011

6/30: Write a letter to someone dead.

Dear Gin:

I'd like to say first that I'm sorry
I haven't talked to you in so long but now
that you're dead it's difficult,
naturally, I'm sure you understand.
To be fair, I haven't heard much
from you either. I guess I wanted
to thank you for a few things. First,

for trying so hard to make me a lady.
Sit up straight and cross your legs and
use the smallest fork first and all
the other seemingly trivial things
you'd remind me of that added up
to make a larger message: be lady-
like. And I am. Lady-like, anyway.
Then, for being so darned beautiful

in all of your old photos, for meaning
that I came from Beautiful Stock, that I
might one day grow up to be beautiful too,
and for the other photos, all the ones
of you in foreign countries, which gave
me permission to travel, in the way those other
photos gave me permission to be beautiful.
It's important to have permission
to be beautiful, I think, what with all
the messages women get today, and also
to be able to travel on your own. Thank you

for so many things. Thank you for
every single school year, the way you would
send my mother, my sister, and I off
to the big city with your credit card
because we two girls would outgrow our clothes
too fast for our parents' budget,
and you knew this, and you loved us
and wanted us to have nice things. Thank you
for the story of the way you and our grandfather

met. For the story of how his parents
were just country farming folk, never sent him
in to school, and the system found him,
third-grade age, and brought him in, and showed him
the third grade classroom, and said, you could
go here if you wanted, these children are
your age. Showed him the second grade classroom
and said, this is right in the middle, if
you like, showed him the first grade class
and said this is the beginning. What do you think?
And my grandfather, the love of your whole life,
just a boy, looked up, smiling, and said:
What classroom was the black-haired girl in?
Of course she was you. This story gave me
permission to believe in love. Do you see

the trend, Gin? O woman who refused to be called
Grandmother because of what it might imply,
woman who threw respect to the wind and said
instead we should call you by your nickname,
Gin, from Virginia, the name I now bear in honor
of all your stories, thank you for what
your stories teach me and thank you, even,

for the story I hate to tell, the story
my father told me, the story in which it is
late September, 1957, and my father is watching
you do the dishes, happy in the kitchen of
his childhood home, happy in the way that only
a privileged white boy in Arkansas in the 50s
can be as he watches his beautiful mother
do dishes, smiling, in the home his father,
who loves his mother, built for his family,
whom he also loves, and shows it. In this story
you are elbow deep in suds when the trucks go past,
down the highway which runs right in front
of your house, and you look up, and you see
the line, as dark green as they tell me
your eyes must have been, and you throw

down your dishtowel and you run out into
your front yard to shake your fist and scream,
as if it were anything other than ineffectual,
at the 101st Airborne on their way
to do nothing other than help a few kids
go to school. Thank you for what I've learned
from this story too, that even gods
and goddesses can be wrong, that it is
my destiny to learn from my heritage,
that my shame is my teacher, that I
can be like you and different at once,
that I can be lady-like, beautiful,
well-traveled, deserve nice things and
deserve to be loved but that I
should love others, too.

Sleep well,
your loving granddaughter.

2 comments:

medic22685 said...

Beautiful. In a way, I understand completely, having had much the same Grandmother when I was a child. All knowing, all loving, self-assured, and yet in retrospect a very confused lady with faults that make her at once more human and beyond the ken of any mere mortal. I miss my Grandma Bobbie and wonder often if she would like me as much today as she seemed to when I had yet to become all that I am today. Thanks for making me appreciate her all over again. You always were a good friend, Ginna Binna, even when pass like two ships in the night for years before coming together and laughing like loons.

Ginna FunkWallace said...

I think of my grandmothers often. I miss them terribly and I too wonder what they would think of me today - would they accept me in my queerness? In my sex positivity? Ponderous. But, "medic22685," I fear I do not know who you are... I do enjoy laughing like a loon, to be sure!